Sunday, October 17, 2010

Commentary: On SC clears Justice Mariano del Castillo in plagiarism charges by some U.P. Law Faculty

By Chanda Shahani

The Supreme Court has cleared Justice Mariano del Castillo of bad faith in the issue of judicial plagiarism charges levied against him by several faculty of the U.P. College of Law, some of whom hold ranking positions within the U.P. System. In a rebuke to some of the faculty, the Supreme Court acknowledged sloppy workmanship of one of the Justice's researchers and the technical limitations of MS Word to detect cut-and-pasted portions of the decision. But the Supreme Court also criticized the protest letter of the faculty, saying that it was made to appear that more faculty had actually signed the letter than actually did; impliedly asserting misrepresentation on the part of some of the faculty, that a majority of the faculty of the U.P. College of Law had signed the actual document.

Perhaps the Supreme Court may wish to consider going beyond MS Word and purchasing off-the-shelf anti-plagiarism software such as Viper, which are now being used overseas to detect plagiarism. In our case, the Diliman Diary reasserts its previous position supporting the faculty of the Ateneo Law School who said that it was premature for Justice del Castillo to even consider resigning over this issue pending the release of the Supreme Court's investigation. Now that the investigation has cleared Justice Castillo, we note that there is now additional data strengthening our suspicion that those who go on the attack are themselves vulnerable to attack (please see:, as the documents they submitted questioning Justice del Castilo's professionalism very unprofessionally made it appear that there was an overwhelming number of signatories from the U.P. College of Law Faculty on their side, as was made abudantly clear by the Supreme Court. To read about this, please click on this link:
SC clears Justice Mariano del Castillo in plagiarism mess - Nation - GMANews.TV - Official Website of GMA News and Public Affairs - Latest Philippine News

Now that the Supreme Court findings are out, we are now hugely motivated to start to screen recent court decisions favoring the U.P. Administration by running the U.P. Administration's arguments, opposing arguments and corresponding judicial decisions (soft copies of course) through the Viper software to see if some of the same signatories of the missive criticizing Justice del Castillo should not themselves be impliedly rebuked if it can be ascertained that the justice's "plagiarized" the U.P. Administration's arguments, lock-stock-and-barrel. After all, what would motivate a researcher of a judge or Justice, or even the judge or Justice to lift entire paragraphs from the arguments of only one opposing side? MS Word cannot detect plagiarism. The Viper software can detect plagiarism but it cannot make any conclusions about the dark side of the human psyche that may occasionally prevail over the ideal that justice should be blind. It is only the vigilance of concerned citizens, media, bloggers and other parties who can monitor these developments. The problem of jettisoned Honor by those from U.P. was recently and brilliantly alluded to by no less than U.P. School of Economics Professor Solita C. Monsod (please see:

We are not questioning the right of the U.P. Administration to file cases or defend itself from suits, but as a community blog covering the Diliman area, of which the U.P. Administration is very much an inhabitant of, we wish to make sure that U.P. does not betray its own self-stated ideals of Honor and Excellence in fighting its legal fights. And at the end of the day, what is so wrong with that?

(Chanda Shahani is the Editor of the Diliman Diary)


  1. From CELINE:

    Excellent, Mr. Chanda. Your article touches/represents reality.

    As you well said, what could be the motive of Justice Del Castillo to pass off another's works as his own? Is he not capable of saying those things by himself?

    I appreciate your focusing on UP Law Faculty's bad faith in the subject charge against Justice Del Castillo as they tried to create a scenario that the entire Faculty is castigating said SC Justice when in fact only (the usual) one third of the Faculty uttered indecent words him.

    I hope you also write about the nasty way by which some U.P. officials fill their pockets with the tax money of the poor Filipinos, which "unlawful filling" or stealing annually results in the rapid hike of tuition fees in the State University.

  2. Chanda,
    Under ordinary circumstances, I do agree that the UP Law faculty could have waited for the decision first before commenting. However, I will suspend my judgment of them because they will have a chance to explain themselves better in court in due time. I will heed your advice not to render judgment until the court has decided.
    ON the other hand, do read the dissenting opinion of Associate Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. To say the least, it's brilliant, enlightening, and conclusive that plagiarism was committed. Just based on her opinion, she's highly credible and an intellectual powerhouse.
    The ruling of the majority (10 justices) pales in comparison - weak in legal reasoning, bereft of strong evidence to support opinion and may be inconsistent with international and intellectual property laws.
    The decision of the majority was less than convincing.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Hello there.

    Thanks for your letter. I do agree that Justice Sereno is brilliant. She had a very long stint with the faculty of the U.P. College of Law which accounts for her thinking and acting like a legal scholar. the Diliman Diary has zeroed in on a portion of her opinion
    ( which obliquely touches on the aspect of judicial plagiarism wherein the judge may hypothetically be "influenced" by the lawyer/s of one side in a case and thereby writing the decision in such a way that it reflects this reality.

    It is indisputible that huge chunks of Justice del Castillo's written decision were not his own. Some would call this plagiarism. Others theft or intellectual dishonesty.

    All-in-all Justice Sereno's moral courage in facing down a majority of her peers over a brilliantly argued point of principle is a great example not only to her peers in the SC, but an inspiration to the idea that in writing or formulating a decision; rigour is really necessary in order to avoid a mediocre and unjustifiable decision.


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