Previously, Mike posted about a decision from the Supreme Court of the Philippines that extensively plagiarized an article written by two American legal scholars. That case, Isabelita Vinuya v. Executive Secretary, also reached a decision contrary to that of the article the Supreme Court had plagiarized from, despite the extensive copy-and-paste job done on the source material.
37 professors at the University of the Philippines College of law issued a statement condemning the plagiarism. Now, the Philippines’ Supreme Court has threatened to hold the professors in contempt:
[Justice] Del Castillo was accused of plagiarizing portions of his ruling on World War II comfort women, but the Supreme Court cleared him, saying there was “no malicious intent” in the “accidental decapitation” of the attribution marks that would indicate that the research material was borrowed.
The court also threatened to crack its whip on the 37 law professors who aired a statement against Del Castillo, saying the Code of Professional Conduct for lawyers prohibits members of the Bar from airing public statements that tend to influence public opinion while a case is pending.
Can you imagine if that was the rule in the U.S.? That would essentially outlaw legal bloggers.
In its Rule to Show Cause issued against the professors, the Supreme Court stated that it
“could hardly perceive any reasonable purpose for the faculty’s less than objective comments except to discredit the April 28, 2010 Decision in the Vinuya case and undermine the Court’s honesty, integrity and competence in addressing the motion for its reconsideration.” The Vinuya case was controversial enough, it added, but the law faculty “would fan the flames and invite resentment against a resolution that would not reverse the said decision.” The court said this was contrary to the faculty’s obligation as law professors and officers of the court and violated the Code of Professional Responsibility.
There is little doubt, though, that the critics’ charges of plagiarism are accurate. In its order dismissing the plagiarism allegations, the Court excused the failure to cite directly quoted text by noting that, “Given the operational properties of the Microsoft program in use by the Court, the accidental decapitation of attributions to sources of research materials is not remote.” In other words, it’s the “Bill Gates ate my homework” defense.
Thanks so much for taking interest in this story. I’ve been following this intently and I regularly update a Note on the Facebook community page “I support the UP [i.e., University of the Philippines] College of Law Faculty,” where you can find a lot of links to pertinent documents online. Allow me to share it with you: http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=143325605713620
I believe that the community of legal scholars here in the Philippines and elsewhere in the world will not allow academic freedom and free speech to be trampled upon by the very institutions that were set up to protect them. So say we all. 😉