Wednesday, October 27, 2010

JPE Appeals for Judicial Restraint from Supreme Court

(Editor's Note: The Office of the Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile just released a  PRESS STATEMENT on the plagiarism issue that has engulfed the Supreme Court of the Republic of the Philippines. I reproduce the Statement verbatim below as received by email.)
27 October 2010
Ref: Yvonne Caunan/ Lizette Nepomuceno
Tel. 5526782; 5526691

On the Supreme Court’s Order to U.P. Law Faculty to show cause why they should not be liable for Indirect Contempt for their statement regarding the issue of plagiarism in the Decision in the case of Vinuya vs. Executive Secretary


I feel compelled to express my humble position on the issue of the Supreme Court’s order for the Dean and the members of the faculty of my alma mater, the College of Law of the University of the Philippines, to show cause why they should not be cited for indirect contempt for issuing and publishing a statement denouncing the plagiarism committed by one of its Associate Justices and to justify why they should not be administratively sanctioned and disciplined.

The Supreme Court had adopted and promulgated its decision by a majority vote in the case of Vinuya et al vs. Executive Secretary (G.R. No. 162230) involving the petition of the victims of rape and sexual slavery committed by the Japanese forces against the so-called Filipina “comfort women” during the Second World War. Thus, understandably, the Highest Court of the land was not spared from the U.P. Law faculty’s statement expressing criticism and indignation over the blatant act of intellectual dishonesty and misrepresentation by the ponente of the decision.

As a member of the Philippine Bar, I am fully cognizant that all of us in the law profession are officers of the Court. The practice of law as a profession is a privilege granted to each of us by the Court, and we are bound by rules of ethical conduct, especially in the manner by which we are required at all times to accord the Court utmost respect. In the practice of our profession, whether as counsels, litigators, advocates, or professors, we are subject to the Supreme Court’s disciplinary powers.

But I hasten to add that our duty to conduct ourselves properly as members of the Bar carries with it the serious duty to protect the Court’s honor and integrity as an institution devoted to the dispensation of justice. The Supreme Court, no less, being the final arbiter in the resolution of disputes that affect both individual and State rights, legal obligations and duties, must be protected against any act, even and more so by one of its own, which in any way would compromise, diminish or weaken its moral, intellectual and institutional integrity.

I understand that no less than three international authors have written the Supreme Court to call attention not only to the lack of attribution of obviously lifted and copied portions of the work of the original authors found in the Vinuya decision, but also to the misrepresentation in the use of the plagiarized material to support conclusions which are far from and in fact opposite to the context of the original works from which they were lifted.

Plagiarism is a grievous affront not only to the Supreme Court itself but to the Philippine judicial system. To claim as one’s own the intellectual work of another without proper attribution is theft of intellectual property. Such practice has no place especially in the drafting, preparation, debates, discussions and decisions of our courts, most especially, the Supreme Court.

When the Highest Court’s attention was invited to the plagiarism, the public, not only the academe, rightly expected that the Court would make sure that such reprehensible conduct would not be allowed to stain the Court’s reputation.

The tenuous justification offered as an excuse for the non-attribution of copied intellectual material, followed by the adoption by the majority of the questioned ponencia on a most sensitive and internationally significant issue such as the right of the “comfort women” to demand the State’s action on their behalf, has stirred much concern and controversy.

The latest action of the Supreme Court, being just a step away from punishing those who wished to voice out and protest what they honestly believed to be a serious wrongdoing on the part of an Associate Justice and a mistake on the part of the Court, has only served to add pain to the aggrieved parties and to spark a fiery debate between the Court on the one hand, and the legal academe and their sympathizers among the members of the Bar and the public on the other.

In the face of such a serious ethical breach on the part of the decision’s ponente, and with all due respect to the majority of the Court who decided to adopt the ponencia, thus making it its own and a part of Philippine jurisprudence, I strongly believe that sadly, the Supreme Court has made itself vulnerable to and must render itself open to legitimate criticism.

I respectfully submit that the Supreme Court’s independence, honor and integrity were not besmirched by the release of the U.P. Law faculty’s statement. The Court’s independence, honor and integrity, including its moral ascendancy, have been placed under a dark cloud of doubt unfortunately by the intellectual dishonesty of one of its own.

The power and majesty of the Supreme Court is too awesome for anyone to trifle with or ignore. As a legislator, public servant, and as a humble member of the Bar, I would like to respectfully appeal to the Supreme Court to exercise restraint in using its disciplinary hand to exact punishment or retribution from those who may disagree with the correctness and wisdom of its decision.

Freedom of expression which embraces academic freedom may be orphaned should our Highest Court choose to use its strong hand when it feels bruised or hurt, rather than to act as its faithful guardian. Ultimately, it is the Supreme Court, acting as the stronghold of civil liberties and rising above its own frailties, which is in the best position to cleanse itself and its ranks and repair the damage brought upon its image before the nation and before the world.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well said JPE. SC must save its face from global embarrassment. Del Castillo must go...... to hell.