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In The Matter of the Charges of Plagiarism, Etc., Against Associate Justice Mariano C. Del Castillo, A.M.

No. 10-7-17-SC. October 12, 2010

On April 28, 2010, the Supreme Court issued a decision which dismissed a petition filed by
the Malaya Lolas Organization in the case of Vinuya vs Romulo. Atty. Herminio Harry Roque
Jr., counsel for Vinuya et al, questioned the said decision. He raised, among others, that the
ponente in said case, Justice Mariano del Castillo, plagiarized three books when the
honorable Justice twisted the true intents of these books to support the assailed decision.
These books were:
a. A Fiduciary Theory of Jus Cogens by Evan J. Criddle and Evan Fox-Descent, Yale Journal
of International Law (2009);
b. Breaking the Silence: Rape as an International Crime by Mark Ellis, Case Western Reserve
Journal of International Law (2006); and
c. Enforcing Erga Omnes Obligations by Christian J. Tams, Cambridge University Press
(2005).
As such, Justice del Castillo is guilty of plagiarism, misconduct, and at least inexcusable
negligence.
Interestingly, even the three foreign authors mentioned above, stated that their works were
used inappropriately by Justice Del Castillo and that the assailed decision is different from
what their works advocated.
ISSUE: Whether or not there is plagiarism in the case at bar.
HELD: No. Even if there is (as emphasized by the Supreme Court in its ruling on the Motion
for Reconsideration filed by Vinuya et al in 2011), the rule on plagiarism cannot be applied to
judicial bodies.
No Plagiarism
According to Blacks Law Dictionary: Plagiarism is the deliberate and knowing presentation
of another persons original ideas or creative expressions as ones own.
This cannot be the case here because as proved by evidence, in the original drafts of the
assailed decision, there was attribution to the three authors but due to errors made by Justice
del Castillos researcher, the attributions were inadvertently deleted. There is therefore no
intent by Justice del Castillo to take these foreign works as his own.
But in plagiarism, intent is immaterial.
On this note, the Supreme Court stated that in its past decisions, (i.e. U.P Board of Regents
vs CA, 313 SCRA 404), the Supreme Court never indicated that intent is not material in
plagiarism. To adopt a strict rule in applying plagiarism in all cases leaves no room for errors.
This would be very disadvantageous in cases, like this, where there are reasonable and
logical explanations.
On the foreign authors claim that their works were used inappropriately
According to the Supreme Court, the passages lifted from their works were merely used as
background facts in establishing the state on international law at various stages of its
development. The Supreme Court went on to state that the foreign authors works can support
conflicting theories. The Supreme Court also stated that since the attributions to said authors
were accidentally deleted, it is impossible to conclude that Justice del Castillo twisted the
advocacies that the works espouse.
No Misconduct
Justice del Castillo is not guilty of misconduct. The error here is in good faith. There was no
malice, fraud or corruption.
No Inexcusable Negligence
The error of Justice del Castillos researcher is not reflective of his gross negligence. The
researcher is a highly competent one. The researcher earned scholarly degrees here and
abroad from reputable educational institutions. The researcher finished third in her class and
4th in the bar examinations. Her error was merely due to the fact that the software she used,
Microsoft Word, lacked features to apprise her that certain important portions of her drafts are
being deleted inadvertently. Such error on her part cannot be said to be constitutive of gross
negligence nor can it be said that Justice del Castillo was grossly negligent when he assigned
the case to her. Further, assigning cases to researchers has been a long standing practice to
assist justices in drafting decisions. It must be emphasized though that prior to assignment,
the justice has already spelled out his position to the researcher and in every sense, the
justice is in control in the writing of the draft.
Read full text
Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno dissenting
There is such a thing as judicial plagiarism. And though judicial plagiarism does not
necessarily carry with them the imposition of sanctions nor does it mean that a case should
undergo retrial based on it, the existence of which should be acknowledged.

In The Matter of The Charges of Plagiarism, Etc. Against Associate Justice Mariano C. Del Castillo, A.M.
No. 10-7-17 SC, February 8, 2011.
The Malaya Lolas received an adverse decision in the case Vinuya vs Romulo decided by
the Supreme Court on April 28, 2010. The Malaya Lolas sought the annulment of said
decision due to the alleged irregularity in the writing of the text of the decision. Allegedly, the
ponente of said case, Justice Mariano del Castillo copied verbatim portions of the decision
laid down in said case from three works by three foreign authors without acknowledging said
authors hence an overt act of plagiarism which is highly reprehensible.
Plagiarism as defined by Blacks Law Dictionary is the deliberate and knowing presentation
of another persons original ideas or creative expressions as ones own.
ISSUE: Whether or not plagiarism is applicable to decisions promulgated by the Supreme
Court.
HELD: No. It has been a long standing practice in this jurisdiction not to cite or acknowledge
the originators of passages and views found in the Supreme Courts decisions. These
omissions are true for many of the decisions that have been penned and are being penned
daily by magistrates from the Court of Appeals, the Sandiganbayan, the Court of Tax Appeals,
the Regional Trial Courts nationwide and with them, the municipal trial courts and other first
level courts. Never in the judiciarys more than 100 years of history has the lack of attribution
been regarded and demeaned as plagiarism.
As put by one author (this time acknowledged by the Court), Joyce C. George from her
Judicial Opinion Writing Handbook:
A judge writing to resolve a dispute, whether trial or appellate, is exempted from a
charge of plagiarism even if ideas, words or phrases from a law review article, novel
thoughts published in a legal periodical or language from a partys brief are used
without giving attribution. Thus judges are free to use whatever sources they deem
appropriate to resolve the matter before them, without fear of reprisal. This exemption
applies to judicial writings intended to decide cases for two reasons: the judge is not
writing a literary work and, more importantly, the purpose of the writing is to resolve a
dispute. As a result, judges adjudicating cases are not subject to a claim of legal
plagiarism.
Further, as found by the Supreme Court, the omission of the acknowledgment by Justice del
Castillo of the three foreign authors arose from a clerical error. It was shown before the
Supreme Court that the researcher who finalized the draft written by Justice del Castillo
accidentally deleted the citations/acknowledgements; that in all, there is still an intent to
acknowledge and not take such passages as that of Justice del Castillos own.