WHAT WENT BEFORE
ON APRIL 28, 2010, the Supreme Court dismissed a petition filed by Filipino “comfort women” led by Isabelita Vinuya, 79.
The 70 women—victims of sexual abuse by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II—had asked the high court to compel the Philippine government to seek a public apology and reparation from Japan.
The tribunal’s unanimous decision was written by Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo.
In July 2010, the women’s lawyers, Harry Roque and Romel Bagares, filed a supplemental motion for consideration, claiming that the decision had been plagiarized.
They said the decision lifted without attribution from articles from the Yale Law Journal and the Western Reserve Journal of International Law and a portion of a book by the Cambridge University Press.
The authors and their allegedly plagiarized works were: “A Fiduciary Theory of Jus Cogens” by Evan J. Criddle and Evan Fox-Descent, “Breaking the Silence: Rape as an International Crime” by Mark Ellis and “Enforcing Erga Omnes Obligations” by Christian J. Tams.
Roque and Bagares said “at least three sources” were plagiarized to “make it appear that these sources support the judgment’s arguments.”
“In truth, the plagiarized sources even make a strong case for the petition’s claims,” they said.
The most extensively plagiarized article was the one by Criddle and Fox-Decent, the lawyers said. They said the article supported the women’s case—that the state could not set aside such crimes as genocide, torture and similar “grave offenses.”
The lawyers cited 31 cases of plagiarism that, they said, made no reference to the article.
In the same month, author Ellis himself sent an e-mail to the high court saying that it “may have misread” his article to justify its position that the comfort women had no legal remedy to press their demand against the Japanese government.
Ellis, the executive director of the International Bar Association composed of 198 national bar associations with 40,000 members worldwide, asked the high court to “take the time to carefully study the arguments” he had made in his article, and said he looked forward to a response.
The high court said Ellis’s e-mail would be referred to the ethics committee especially formed to look into the plagiarism case.
In a statement issued on Aug. 10, 2010, 37 law professors of the University of the Philippines said Del Castillo’s purported plagiarism was “unacceptable, unethical and in breach of the high standards of moral conduct… expected of the Supreme Court,” and called for his resignation.
In October 2010, the tribunal voted 10-4 to dismiss the plagiarism case filed by Roque and Bagares. (Del Castillo took no part in the proceedings.)
It said Del Castillo’s failure to acknowledge his sources in the decision was due to his legal researcher’s accidental deletion of the footnotes, and that he could not have “twisted” the meaning of the lifted passages because these only provided background facts in international law.
Also in October 2010, the high court voted 10-3 to issue a show-cause order compelling the 37 UP law professors to explain why they should not be sanctioned for demanding Del Castillo’s resignation.
‘Flexing of judicial muscle’
In a dissenting opinion, Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales said the order was “nothing but an abrasive flexing of judicial muscle.”
The law professors said they were standing by their statement; they were backed by other lawyers, including lawmakers.
Vinuya et al. sought a reversal of the high court’s decision. But on Feb. 8, the high court said the women were “nitpicking” and dismissed their petition.
On Dec. 14, 2010, 11 members of the House of Representatives filed an impeachment complaint against Del Castillo for betrayal of public trust.
They said that “in twisting the true intents of the sources, [Del Castillo] misled the other members” of the high court. Eliza Victoria, Inquirer Research
Source: Inquirer Archives
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