Centerlaw wants SC justice tried for another plagiarism case

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 15 2010 06:15 PM | Updated as of Nov 16 2010 02:15 AM

…lambasts use of Wikipedia as one of alleged unattributed source

MANILA, Philippines - The lawyers that earlier raised plagiarism allegations against Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo wants him tried for another case, claiming this should now “expose a clear pattern and habit of plagiarism.”

This should also prompt the high court to call for his resignation, the Harry Roque, Jr.-led Centerlaw said.

In a motion for reconsideration, the group wants the SC to investigate the extent of the supposed plagiarism in the “Ang Ladlad” decision.

“And with more plagiarism more or less of the same mold coming out of the woodwork in Ang Ladlad, it is regretfully not difficult to conclude that the truth was not being told when the defense of inadvertence was being offered by Justice Del Castillo in the case of Vinuya,” the group said.

The latter refers to a ponencia regarding the case of comfort women. The magistrate supposedly plagiarized the works of several American legal experts to arrive at the decision.

But in a 25-page ruling in October, the high court adopted the findings of an ethics committee, saying del Castillo is not guilty of misconduct and gross inexcusable negligence.

It said del Castillo did not try to pass off the works of the legal experts as his own. It described the issue “a case of bad footnoting.”

Use of Wikipedia

Roque’s group said “in the earlier case of Ang Ladlad, entire paragraphs were lifted without attribution, sentences, words or phrases were intercalated, and discursive footnotes were represented as if the discussion in the footnotes were the ponente’s words, when in fact, these were lifted from unacknowledged sources.”

In a decision penned by the magistrate in April, the high court allowed the party-list representing gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders to seek representation in Congress.

In at least 2 instances, the ponencia supposedly used, without attribution, a passage from Wikipedia, said the group.
Centerlaw noted the Office of the Solicitor General earlier lost a case before the Court of Appeals by using an argument culled from Wikipedia.

“At least, in the case of the Solicitor General, it was honest enough to properly reference the Web-based encyclopedia whose reliability as an academic project is still under question. In this case, it appears that the ponencia appropriated a reference from Wikipedia word for word, without the due courtesy of citing it as a source of the direct quotation,” it added.

The Microsoft Defense

The high court should also check the “Microsoft Defense” used in clearing del Castillo, it said. The magistrate inadvertently omitted some phrases.

“In fairness to Microsoft Word (MS Word), it is not correct to say that MS Word does not have a signal to warn the user of deletions or changes made in the electronic draft. It does have. It is called the “track changes” function which has been available as early as the 1997 version of Mr. Bill Gates’ product,” it added.

Dragging the entire high Court

The group claimed both cases have “unfortunately dragged the entire high court” to the controversy.

While magistrates are not barred from utilizing the services of law clerks for research purposes, “it does not and should not mean the surrender by a Justice of the Supreme Court of control and supervision of the writing of the Judgment of the Court to a law clerk.”

The Vinuya case was supposedly written by a researcher from del Castillo’s office.

Even the high court’s ruling on the fate of the magistrate is contrary to its own rules, the group said.

In an administrative issuance regarding the proper use of information technology facilities, the SC specifically prohibited plagiarism and other forms of cheating, it added.

The 2 works also goes against the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines, they added.

A different meaning has also been given to “plagiarism,” putting in peril “societal values,” it stressed. Different schools said the decision could even abet plagiarism among students.