Aquino criticizes SC for threatening UP law professors

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Aquino sides with UP professors on plagiarism issue
By Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) Updated November 21, 2010 12:00 AM Comments

MANILA, Philippines – President Aquino sided with the University of the Philippines (UP) in its bout with the Supreme Court over the plagiarism issue.

Aquino stressed the “straight path” of properly attributing to authors or makers of any written opinion over any subject matter.

“It’s not always easy to walk the straight path. We both have the same stand on this: there should be no lying, there should be no copying, there should be no stealing or the use of analyses without the authority or proper attribution of the authors,” Aquino told the alumni homecoming of the UP College of Law on Friday.

“Those who are in a higher position should also not threaten or frighten the people who only want to freely express their opinion and lay down the truth,” Aquino said.

Aquino noted the uproar over the recent Supreme Court (SC) ruling over the definition of plagiarism in what the legal sector claimed was supposed to favor a ranking magistrate.

The SC earlier cleared Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo of accusations of copying certain legal opinions of foreign authors in his decision on the case of comfort wo­men.

The high court said Del Castillo did not try to pass off the works of the legal experts as his own, saying it was only “a case of bad footnoting.”

Different law schools and private institutions led by the UP slammed the SC decision that substantially changed the legal definition of plagiarism.

The faculty of the UP College of Law also joined calls urging Del Castillo to resign.

The SC then warned the UP College of Law faculty that they could be cited for contempt for demanding the resignation of Del Castillo.

The faculty members responded by saying that their actions were protected by the Constitution while insisting that Del Castillo committed plagiarism and misrepresentation.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago also expressed her support for the UP College of Law.

“They should be commended for being so vigilant that they can catch certain plagiarized quotations in Supreme Court decisions,” Santiago said.

“That is an extraordinary skill. I don’t think they should be faulted for doing what they did. So I support the case of the UP faculty,” she added.

Santiago, a former judge, said plagiarism is a serious matter which is equivalent to forgery or passing off a fake as an original.

“That is a crime in our Penal Code. In the same way, in the intellectual world, plagiarism should be considered, in effect, an unforgivable crime,” she said.

Even without categorically stating that Del Castillo was guilty of plagiarism, Santiago said the SC magistrate is responsible for the contents of his ruling.

“You can make all kinds of excuses of why there is no attribution but if you are the signed author of a document…you are the last person to read the document so you will be able to catch all imperfections in that document.

Besides, once you affix your signature you should be ready to defend your work,” she pointed out.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senators Francis Pangilinan and Francis Escudero also appealed for judicial restraint on the part of the SC.

Enrile said the warning of contempt by the SC against the UP law faculty members is “just a step away from punishing those who wish 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.”

Pangilinan argued the claim of the UP College of Law faculty has basis and was even supported by the dissenting opinion issued by Associate Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno on the dismissal of the charges against Del Castillo.

Escudero, for his part, said the SC magistrates should just take the criticisms coming from various fronts as constructive criticism.

Meanwhile, Aquino also called on the country’s lawyers to be an active part of a genuine democracy.

Aquino said the country is looking to UP as a source of lawyers who would dispense justice that would not favor any class or individual.

Aquino pointed out the UP College of Law has produced four presidents, 12 chief justices, several senators and congressmen apart from distinguished personalities in the government and private sectors.

Aquino told the gathering that he just attended the reunion of San Beda College of Law, where he was named an honorary alumnus, adding his name to what he called a roster of “too many lawyers.”

But despite the large number of lawyers, Aquino said he was bothered by the reality of more people suffering from injustices and abuses but are not given their day in court.

“I am even more bothered about the volumes of paper that pile up in courts and the cases that have been pending for several decades,” he said.

Aquino remarked that a lot of lawyers are busy dressing, looking and acting like lawyers rather than handling cases of their less fortunate countrymen.

“I suppose many of you are mumbling that what I am saying is very idealistic,” he said.

Aquino expressed hope the reunion of the UP College of Law would pave the way for all lawyers to revisit, not just their student days, but more importantly the ideals entrusted to them during their stay at Malcolm Hall about giving real and speedy justice to all people.

“Do not fail your country, your profession and yourselves,” Aquino said.

Aquino also told the gathering the reason why he is calling on the SC to open up the Maguindanao massacre trial to the media.

He said a live broadcast of the trial would reduce the cost of the victims’ survivors to witness the hearings.

A live television coverage of the trial would also convince the entire nation that the courts and the government have nothing to hide, Aquino stressed. – With Marvin Sy
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