Del Castillo accused of 32 counts of plagiarism - lawyer

By Jay Ruiz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 14 2012 04:41 PM | Updated as of Feb 15 2012 06:47 AM

Plagiarism a betrayal of public trust - House majority

MANILA, Philippines - Supreme Court Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo allegedly committed 32 counts of plagiarism in writing the decision on the case of World War II "comfort women", a lawyer said Tuesday.

Four grandmothers who were sexually abused and made to become comfort women during the Japanese occupation, together with their lawyers, attended the House of Representatives committee of justice hearing this morning in the impeachment complaint against del Castillo. 

The comfort women were the main complainants against del Castillo for alleged plagiarism as ponente or main author of the decision in the Vinuya case, which denied the petition filed by a group of comfort women seeking to compel the government to espouse their claims against the Japanese government.

Atty. Romel Bagares, lawyer of the comfort women, presented documents that allegedly prove that Justice del Castillo committed 32 counts of plagiarism and worse twisted the plagiarized work to justify his decision.

Among the documentary evidence submitted by Bagares were letters by foreign authors and a matrix or comparison of the plagiarized work. 

Members of House majority said that as a justice of the Supreme Court, del Castillo's act of plagiarism is a betrayal of public trust.

Members of the minority bloc including Reps. Danilo Suarez and Mitos Magsaysay, however, said plagiarism is not a crime and that the decision of del Castillo was a collegial decision. 

During questioning, one of the comfort women admitted that what they want is to get justice and right a historical mistake but that they did not want del Castillo out of office. Isabelita Vinuya, 82, however, retracted her statement and said that if they still won't get a favorable decision in their case, she wants all the justices impeached.

'Plagiarism not a high crime'

Atty. Louie Oximer, lawyer of del Castillo, said the alleged plagiarized parts of the decision were not used to justify the decision.

He said plagiarism is not a high crime, is not bribery or treason and is not culpable violation of the Constitution therefore it cannot be an impeachable offense. 

He also requested that his client skip the hearing because of a scheduled angiogram and heart bypass operation.  The motion was granted by the committee.

Rep. Niel Tupas, chairman of the House justice committee, set the next hearing on February 21, 2012. He said that he allowed the postponement for a week for the House members to study the documentary evidence presented by both sides. 

He said the voting for probable cause of the case will be conducted on that day and if majority of the members vote for probable cause then the complaint will be transmitted to the plenary for debates. 

Tupas, however, said that in case the majority of the congressmen will vote for probable cause, he wants the debate in the plenary be deferred until after the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.