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SC clears Justice Mariano del Castillo in
plagiarism mess
SOPHIA DEDACE, GMANews.TV October 15, 2010 3:07pm

Tags: Supreme Court
(Updated 4:54 p.m.) The Supreme Court has absolved a member of the bench who was accused of
plagiarizing portions of a controversial ruling on World War II comfort women, explaining that the
attributions of the allegedly plagiarized material were merely accidentally deleted" by a court
researcher.
In a 25-page ruling promulgated on October 12, the court junked the petition alleging that Associate
Justice Mariano del Castillo lifted portions of his ruling from foreign sources without the proper
attribution.
"The Court dismisses for lack of merit the charges of plagiarism, twisting of cited materials and gross
neglect against [Del Castillo]," said the court's per curiam decision, where the ponente (author) is not
identified.
Ten magistrates voted to clear their colleague's name. They are Chief Justice Renato Corona,
Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Eduardo Nachura, Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Arturo
Brion, Lucas Bersamin, Roberto Abad, Martin Villarama Jr., Jose Perez, and Jose Mendoza.
Those who dissented were Associate Justices Conchita Carpio-Morales and Maria Lourdes Aranal-
Sereno. Associate Justices Antonio Carpio and Diosdado Peralta were on official leave.
The court's decision was based on the investigation made by the court's own Ethics and Ethical
Standards Committee.
Plagiarism mess
On April 28, 2010, the court promulgated its ruling on the "Vinuya, et al. vs. Executive Secretary" case.
Comfort women led by Isabelita Vinuya asked the court to compel the Philippine government to have
Tokyo apologize to, and provide compensation for the comfort women.
The ruling, which was penned by Del Castillo, denied the plea of the women, who were victims of
sexual slavery by Japanese occupation forces during World War II. The women later appealed the
decision by filing a motion for reconsideration in June 2010.
In July this year, the women filed a supplemental motion alleging that Del Castillo's ponencia contains
plagiarized portions.
The sources from where Del Castillo allegedly borrowed without proper attribution were A Fiduciary of
Theory of Jus Cogens" by Evan Criddle and Evan Fox-Decent, "Breaking the Silence on Rape as an
International Crime" by Mark Ellis, and "Enforcing Erga Omnes Obligations in International Law" by
Christian Tams.
Attributions accidentally deleted
But according to the Supreme Court ruling, Del Castillo did not commit plagiarism because when his
researcher "cut" research materials from a law website and "pasted" them on the decision's main
manuscript, the attributions were "accidentally deleted."
"The mistake of Justice del Castillo's researcher is that, after the Justice had decided what texts,
passages, and citations were to be retained, including those from the Criddle-Decent and Ellis, and
when she was already cleaning up her work and deleting all subject tags, she unintentionally deleted
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the footnotes that went with such tags with disastrous effect," said the SC.
The court did not identify the magistrate's court researcher.
The court also held that plagiarism was not committed because there was no malicious intent to pass
off someone else's work as one's own.
"If the Justice's citations were imprecise, it would just be a case of bad footnoting rather than one of
theft or deceit. If it were otherwise, many would be target of abuse for every editorial error, for every
mistake in citing pagination, and for every technical detail of form," added the high tribunal.
"Notably, neither Justice Del Castillo nor his researcher had a motive or reason for omitting attribution
for lifted passages to Criddle-Decent or to Ellis," it also said.
The court then said that critics should not fault Del Castillo or his researcher who are "human beings
vulnerable to human errors."
"They are hypocrites who believe that the courts should be as error-free as they themselves are," said
the court.
MS Word's fault?
The court also held that Del Castillo cannot be accused of plagiarism because the program used in
writing the decision cannot detect "copied and pasted" material, so to speak.
"Microsoft Word program does not have a function that raises an alarm when original materials are cut
up or pruned. The portions that remain simply blend in with the rest of the manuscript, adjusting the
footnote number and removing any clue that what should stick together had just been severed," said
the SC.
Not twisted out of context
The authors Criddle, Fox-Decent, Ellis, and Tams have come out with public statements or posts on
their blogs that Del Castillo twisted the text of their works out of context.
However, the SC said the allegation is baseless because the lifted portions only provided background
facts and were neutral data.
"Considering how it was impossible for Justice Del Castillo to have twisted the meaning of the
passages he lifted from the works of Tams, Criddle-Decent, and Ellis, the charge of 'twisting' or
misrepresentation against him is to say the least, unkind. To be more accurate, however, the charge is
reckless and obtuse," said the court.
UP Law
In the wake of the controversy, University of the Philippines law professors had urged Del Castillo to
resign for supposedly breaching the court's "high standards of moral conduct."
They said the SC cannot accept excuses for failure to attain the highest standards of conduct imposed
upon all members of the bench and bar because these undermine the very foundation of its authority
and power in a democratic society.
The court, however, noted that its Ethics and Ethical Standards Committee has an "original" and a
"dummy" copy of the professors' manifesto.
In the supposed original copy, 37 of the 81 on the list are signatories. In the so-called dummy copy on
the other hand, all the faculty members were perceived to be signatories because the letters "Sgd." or
"signed" were printed beside the names.
The court then remarked: "As it turned out, the original statement was signed by only a minority of the
faculty members on the list. The set of signatories that appeared like solid teeth in the dummy turned
out to be broken teeth in the original. Since only 37 out of the 81 on the list signed the document, it
does not appear to be a statement of the Faculty, but of just some of its members."
GMANews.TV is trying to get the UP College of Law's statement as of posting time.
Court's actions
The court then directed the Committee on Ethics and Ethical Standards to turn over the original and
dummy copies of the UP law school's statement "for the en banc's consideration in relation to separate
pending matter concerning that supposed Faculty statement.
Asked whether the UP faculty members can be cited for contempt, SC spokesman and administrator
Jose Midas Marquez said "this will be for the court to consider."
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The SC also ordered its Public Information Office to send copies of the decision to the foreign authors
Criddle, Fox-Decent, Ellis and Tams.
The court also reminded court attorneys involved in legal research to avoid committing similar errors
that Del Castillo's researcher made. LBG/JV, GMANews.TV
Tags: Supreme Court

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47 Comments GMA News Online Login
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"
"
Ina Alexandria " 4 years ago
SHAME ON YOU, Supreme Court Justices! You expect the public to believe such
excuses?!
As for this quote:
"They are hypocrites who believe that the courts should be as error-free as they
themselves are. "
Of course we expect the content of your decisions to be error-free! Do you expect
us to have condence in a Supreme Court that produces sloppy work?
We, the Filipino people, are not stupid. Stop insulting our intelligence with your
excuses. That decision is pure baloney.

5
"
Benjamin Ylagan " 4 years ago
Ang bagsik netong Supreme Court nato sa mga abogado basta di nila miyembro...
Re original and dummy manifesto ng UP law faculty -- dapat sagutin din ang korte
nato na wala din sila malicious intent.... Na it was an honest mistake din nung
inutusan nila mag-transmit ng manifesto.... Magkataon di sila paniniwalaan....
Gag.uhan na talaga eto!!

2
"
Ewell " 4 years ago
With all due DIS-RESPECT, all I can say is, ang kakapal ng mukha ng mga
Associate Justice na ito. Sila ang may malicious intent. Pinawalang sala ang
mangongopya. Naturingan pa namang mga Associate Justice. Nasaan ang
JUSTICE? Akala niyo lahat ng tao engot. Sobra naman talaga ginagawa niyong
pagbaluktot sa "plagiarism". Dapat may malicious intent... huuuu... sinong inuulol
niyo?

2
"
fuck disqus delete my account " 4 years ago
Very familiar voting pattern in the SC. It has that shy odor of corrupted honor.

2
Celle la Rosa " 4 years ago
Plagiarism is a CRIME. It's the worst kind of theft, coz you steal thoughts, words,
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