The Philippine Supreme Court is roiled by a plagiarism scandal involving one of the magistrates, Justice Mariano del Castillo, who wrote the high court’s decision on a case involving Filipino women who were treated as sex slaves by the Japanese during World War II. The decision had passages that were lifted from the work of several other people without attribution.
The Supreme Court, which investigated the allegation of plagiarism, recently issued a ruling exonerating del Castillo and his staff of any wrongdoing, saying that it had all been a mistake. The court stopped short of blaming Microsoft Word for what it called “accidental decapitation” of the footnotes of the decision where the attribution was supposed to have been included.
This scandal has seriously threatened the integrity and credibility of the Supreme Court, as I pointed out in my story today in Newsbreak where we disclosed the identity of del Castillo’s legal researcher who drafted the ponencia. (And it turns out this may not be the first such case involving del Castillo and this topnotch lawyer from the Ateneo de Manila Law School, where she edited the law journal, finished 3rd in her batch and subsequently placed 4th in the bar exams.)
The Supreme Court’s responses to the scandal have been met with intense criticism. Filipinos are outraged that the court not only cleared Justice del Castillo — it declared in its decision that there had been a mistake but did not assign accountability. It also did not say how it was going to correct that mistake. Will it recall the decision and correct it, or allow it to stay in the record books?
The Philippine Supreme Court has once again become the laughingstock of the legal world, especially after it threatened with contempt law professors from the University of the Philippines for speaking out against the plagiarism and how this has damaged the credibility of the highest court of the land. I don’t know how the Supreme Court can repair that damage without disciplining its people.
For stories and commentary on this controversy, check out Newsbreak’s coverage. The online magazine was the first to expose the plagiarism, as early as July.