FIFTEEN professors and 20 lecturers at the University of the Philippines-College of Law issued a statement expressing concern that a Supreme Court (SC) Justice allegedly “plagiarized” parts of a ruling on the “comfort women”.

They said the injustice committed against the comfort women was further magnified by the fact that their “hopes have been crushed by a singularly reprehensible act of dishonesty and misrepresentation by the Highest Court of the Land.”

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The group's statement said: “It is within this frame that the Faculty of the University of the Philippines College of Law views the charge that an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court committed plagiarism and misrepresentation in Vinuya v. Executive Secretary. The plagiarism and misrepresentation are not only affronts to the individual scholars whose work have been appropriated without correct attribution, but also a serious threat to the integrity and credibility of the Philippine Judicial System.”

“The plagiarism committed in the case of Vinuya v. Executive Secretary is unacceptable, unethical and in breach of the high standards of moral conduct and judicial and professional competence expected of the Supreme Court,” they added.

At the same time, they also urged SC Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo who penned the ruling to resign from his post.

“In light of the extremely serious and far-reaching nature of the dishonesty and to save the honor and dignity of the Supreme Court as an institution, it is necessary for the ponente of Vinuya v. Executive Secretary to resign his position, without prejudice to any other sanctions."

The allegations against del Castillo were made by lawyers Harry Roque and Rommel Bagares who represented the elderly women-victims of rape by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.

The lawyers said Castillo plagiarized portions of articles in foreign legal journals to provide the basis for junking their suit which among other sought to compel the government to secure a formal apology and compensation from Japan for their sufferings.

The SC had already referred the issue to the ethics committee. It was the first case to be taken by the ethic committee since it was formed last May prior to the retirement of then Chief Justice Reynato Puno.

The embattled magistrate denied plagiarizing his April 28, 2010 ruling in a letter to the SC.

"It must be emphasized that there was every intention to attribute all sources, whenever due. At no point was there ever any malicious intent to appropriate another's work as our own," a portion of Del Castillo’s letter read.

Citing Section 184(k) of Republic Act No. 8293 or the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines, Del Castillo said that "any use made of a work for the purpose of any judicial proceedings shall not constitute infringement of copyright."

But the UP Law faculty said a comparison of the Vinuya decision and the original source material shows that the “ponente” merely copied select portions of other legal writers’ works and interspersed them into the ruling as if it was del Castillo’s own and original work.

“Under the circumstances however, because the Decision has been promulgated by the Court, the Decision now becomes the Court’s and no longer just the ponente’s. Thus the Court also bears the responsibility for the Decision. In the absence of any mention of the original writers’ names and the publications from which they came, the thing speaks for itself,” they said adding that “so far there have been unsatisfactory responses from the ponente of this case and the spokesman of the Court,” the statement added.

They also said that del Castillo cannot invoked the argument that “Members of the Court cannot be expected to be familiar with all legal and scholarly journals,” adding that personal unfamiliarity with sources all the more demands correct and careful attribution and citation of the material relied upon.

“It is a matter of diligence and competence expected of all Magistrates of the Highest Court of the Land,” the statement further read.

But the signatories said a far more serious matter is the objection of the original writers of the quoted portion of the ruling, Professors Evan Criddle and Evan Fox-Descent adding that “exacerbates the intellectual dishonesty of copying works without attribution by transforming it into an act of intellectual fraud by copying works in order to mislead and deceive.”

They added that the controversial case is a landmark potential decision in International Law because it deals with State liability and responsibility for personal injury and damage suffered in a time of war, and the role of the injured parties’ home States in the pursuit of remedies against such injury or damage.

Among those who signed the statement were Dean Marvic Leonen, former UP College of Law Dean Froilan Bacungan (1978-1983), Dean Pacifico Agabin (1989-1995), Dean Merlin Magalona (1995-1999), and Dean Salvador Carlota (2005-2008).

Also signing the statement were regular faculty members Carmelo Sison, Patricia Salvador Daway, Dante Gatmaytan, Theodore Te, Florin Hilbay, Jay Batongbacal, Evelyn Battad, Gwen De Vera, Solomon Lumba and Rommel Casis.

Lecturers Arthur Autea, Rosa Maria Bautista, Mark Bocobo, Dan Calica, Tristan Catindig, Sandra Marie Coronel, Rosario Gallo, Concepcion Jardeleza, Antonio La Vina, Carina Laforteza, Jose Laureta, Dina Lucinario, Owen Lynch, Antonio Santos, Vicente Menodoza, Gmeleen Faye Tomboc, Nicholas Felix Ty, Evalyn Ursua, Raul Vasquez and Susan Villanueva. (AH/Sunnex)