Sunday, July 25, 2010

Plagiarism and Judicial Integrity

The faculty of the UP College of Law will come out with a statement on the allegations of plagiarism against the Supreme Court in the case of Vinuya v. Executive Secretary (G.R. No. 162230, April 28, 2010). The statement will carry my sentiments so there is no need for me to elaborate on my position here. I add only a few thoughts:

I cringe at the thought that at some point in the future, the works of the judiciaries of the world will be compiled and examined to see what States do to vindicate the rights of their citizens. In that collection, the Philippines will offer a Supreme Court decision saying that comfort women who were raped by invading Japanese soldiers during the Second World War "appear to be without a remedy to challenge those that have offended them before appropriate fora." That decision will be founded on plagiarized works, that in fact argued the exact opposite: that these victims do have remedies under international law.

The Supreme Court should take steps to avoid this potentially appalling spectacle. Its shortcomings will have consequences not only on the integrity of the Court, but also on the dignity of every member of the bar. The obvious step is not to dismiss the charges as baseless but to call out those who did wrong and mete out the proper penalties. It should then reexamine the Vinuya if only because the bases for that decision now appear to be based on a misunderstanding of its sources.

The status quo is a no-win situation for the profession. The Supreme Court must take the steps, however painful they may be, that will restore its credibility not only before the eyes of the international legal community, but the petitioners in Vinuya who had placed their faith in the Court as an impartial and competent tribunal.

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