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SC Justice faces another accusation of plagiarism


(Update 2 - 8:39 p.m.) Supreme Court Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo, who was recently exonerated by his colleagues from allegations that he plagiarized portions of a ruling on World War II comfort women, is facing another accusation of plagiarism. This time, the website pinoymoneytalk.com has claimed that Del Castillo’s April 8, 2010 ruling that granted permission to Ang Ladlad to participate in the May 10 elections as a party-list group allegedly contained plagiarized portions from at least three sources. Reached for comment, Supreme Court spokesman and administrator Jose Midas Marquez said the high tribunal will only tackle the matter when the latest plagiarism allegations are brought to the court formally. The Supreme Court justices are on recess until November 16, and GMANews.TV could not reach Del Castillo's office for comment. In a text message, Marquez said: "Admittedly, this second allegation is only a 'preliminary' study. It is suggested that before serious allegations like these are hurled, especially at this time, they be results of deliberate and thorough consideration, as they add nothing but further confusion to the present situation." The table below prepared by GMANews.TV compares the portions pointed out by pinoymoneytalk.com with the original text allegedly copied by Justice del Castillo in his ponencia about the Ang Ladlad case without proper attribution.
Portions of Del Castillo’s Ang Ladlad vs Comelec decisionOriginal sources
Freedom of expression constitutes one of the essential foundations of a democratic society, and this freedom applies not only to those that are favorably received but also to those that offend, shock, or disturb. Any restriction imposed in this sphere must be proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued.Freedom of expression constitutes one of the essential foundations of such a society, one of the basic conditions for its progress and for the development of every man. Subject to paragraph 2 of Article 10 (art. 10-2), it is applicable not only to “information" or “ideas" that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive or as a matter of indifference, but also to those that offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population. Such are the demands of that pluralism, tolerance and broadmindedness without which there is no “democratic society". This means, amongst other things, that every “formality", “condition", “restriction" or “penalty" imposed in this sphere must be proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued. (From Section 49 of the Handyside vs United Kingdom decision by the European Conventin on Human Rights)
Otherwise stated, the COMELEC is certainly not free to interfere with speech for no better reason than promoting an approved message or discouraging a disfavored one.While the law is free to promote all sorts of conduct in place of harmful behavior, it is not free to interfere with speech for no better reason than promoting an approved message or discouraging a disfavored one, however enlightened either purpose may strike the government. (From Hurley vs. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston Inc. decision of the US Supreme Court)
However, as far as this Court is concerned, our democracy precludes using the religious or moral views of one part of the community to exclude from consideration the values of other members of the community.Religion is an integral aspect of people’s lives, and cannot be left at the boardroom door. What secularism does rule out, however, is any attempt to use the religious views of one part of the community to exclude from consideration the values of other members of the community. (From Chamberlain v. Surrey School District No. 36 decision of the Canadian Supreme Court)
A ponencia is a decision written by a magistrate, also called the "ponente" of the ruling or decision. Reacting to the allegation, Marquez said: "As it is, it appears that the alleged plagiarized phrase has been used in a thousand other writings without citation, and has become a generally accepted principle of law. Be that as it may, the further issuance of a statement on the matter shall be stayed, until this issue is formally brought before the Court." For his part, UP law professor Harry Roque Jr. pointed out a total of eight portions in the Ang Ladlad ruling that may have been plagiarized from other sources as well. The first three are similar to GMANews.TV's list (see chart), with an additional five points. (Click here for PDF file of Roque chart, or here to view his original blog post.) Vinuya vs Executive Secretary ruling The Supreme Court recently cleared Del Castillo of plagiarizing the ruling on comfort women. The sources of Del Castillo's alleged "borrowed portions" of the ruling 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.
  • Ten of the 15 SC justices voted to clear Del Castillo, saying his researcher had no "malicious intent" when she "accidentally deleted the footnotes" attributing the contested portions to the three foreign sources. "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," the Supreme Court added. In a dissenting opinion, however, Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno said the court's ruling will set a dangerous precedent because it will make "malicious intent" a necessary element to constitute plagiarism. "Unless reconsidered, this Court would unfortunately be remembered as the Court that made 'malicious intent' an indispensable element of plagiarism and that made computer-keying errors an exculpatory fact in charges of plagiarism, without clarifying whether its ruling applies only to situations of judicial decision-making or to other written intellectual activity," said Sereno. - VVP/YA/HS/JV, GMANews.TV
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