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In the matter of the charges of plagiarism, etc.

, against Associate Justice This cannot be the case here because as proved by evidence, in the original
Mariano C. Del Castillo drafts of the assailed decision, there was attribution to the three authors but
due to errors made by Justice del Castillo’s researcher, the attributions were
Facts: On April 28, 2010, the Supreme Court issued a decision which
inadvertently deleted. There is therefore no intent by Justice del Castillo to
dismissed a petition filed by the Malaya Lolas Organization in the case of
take these foreign works as his own.
Vinuya vs Romulo. Atty. Herminio Harry Roque Jr., counsel for Vinuya et
al, questioned the said decision. He raised, among others, that the ponente in But in plagiarism, intent is immaterial.
said case, Justice Mariano del Castillo, plagiarized three books when the
On this note, the Supreme Court stated that in its past decisions, (i.e. U.P
honorable Justice “twisted the true intents” of these books to support the
Board of Regents vs CA, 313 SCRA 404), the Supreme Court never
assailed decision. These books were: a. A Fiduciary Theory of Jus Cogens by
indicated that intent is not material in plagiarism. To adopt a strict rule in
Evan J. Criddle and Evan Fox-Descent, Yale Journal of International Law
applying plagiarism in all cases leaves no room for errors. This would be
(2009); b. Breaking the Silence: Rape as an International Crime by Mark
very disadvantageous in cases, like this, where there are reasonable and
Ellis, Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law (2006); and c.
logical explanations.
Enforcing Erga Omnes Obligations by Christian J. Tams, Cambridge
University Press (2005). On the foreign authors’ claim that their works were used inappropriately
As such, Justice del Castillo is guilty of plagiarism, misconduct, and at least According to the Supreme Court, the passages lifted from their works were
inexcusable negligence. Interestingly, even the three foreign authors merely used as background facts in establishing the state on international law
mentioned above, stated that their works were used inappropriately by Justice at various stages of its development. The Supreme Court went on to state that
Del Castillo and that the assailed decision is different from what their works the foreign authors’ works can support conflicting theories. The Supreme
advocated. Court also stated that since the attributions to said authors were accidentally
deleted, it is impossible to conclude that Justice del Castillo twisted the
Issue: Whether or not Justice Del Castillo committed plagiarism
advocacies that the works espouse.
Ruling: NO. There is no plagiarism. Even if there is (as emphasized by the
No Misconduct
Supreme Court in its ruling on the Motion for Reconsideration filed by
Vinuya et al in 2011), the rule on plagiarism cannot be applied to judicial Justice del Castillo is not guilty of misconduct. The error here is in good
bodies. faith. There was no malice, fraud or corruption.
No Plagiarism No Inexcusable Negligence (explanation of Justice Del Castillo)
At its most basic, plagiarism means the theft of another persons language, The error of Justice del Castillo’s researcher is not reflective of his gross
thoughts, or ideas. To plagiarize, as it is commonly understood according to negligence. The researcher is a highly competent one. The researcher earned
Webster, is to take (ideas, writings, etc.) from (another) and pass them off as scholarly degrees here and abroad from reputable educational institutions.
ones own.The passing off of the work of another as ones own is thus an The researcher finished third in her class and 4th in the bar examinations. Her
indispensable element of plagiarism. error was merely due to the fact that the software she used, Microsoft Word,
lacked features to apprise her that certain important portions of her drafts are
According to Black’s Law Dictionary: Plagiarism is the “deliberate and
being deleted inadvertently. Such error on her part cannot be said to be
knowing presentation of another person’s original ideas or creative
constitutive of gross negligence nor can it be said that Justice del Castillo
expressions as one’s own.”
was grossly negligent when he assigned the case to her. Further, assigning
cases to researchers has been a long standing practice to assist justices in
drafting decisions. It must be emphasized though that prior to assignment, the
justice has already spelled out his position to the researcher and in every
sense, the justice is in control in the writing of the draft.
With the advent of computers, however, as Justice Del Castillos researcher
also explained, most legal references, including the collection of decisions of
the Court, are found in electronic diskettes or in internet websites that offer
virtual libraries of books and articles. Here, as the researcher found items that
were relevant to her assignment, she downloaded or copied them into her
main manuscript, a smorgasbord plate of materials that she thought she might
She electronically cut relevant materials from books and journals in the
Westlaw website and pasted these to a main manuscript in her computer that
contained the issues for discussion in her proposed report to the Justice. She
used the Microsoft Word program. Later, after she decided on the general
shape that her report would take, she began pruning from that manuscript
those materials that did not fit, changing the positions in the general scheme
of those that remained, and adding and deleting paragraphs, sentences, and
words as her continuing discussions with Justice Del Castillo, her chief
editor, demanded. Parenthetically, this is the standard scheme that computer-
literate court researchers use everyday in their work.