Lawyers call for sobriety on SC Justice plagiarism issue

August 13, 2010 11:39 am 

MANILA, Aug. 12 — Prominent lawyers took the cudgels for the Supreme Court on Thursday as they called for sobriety on the alleged plagiarism issue while the result of an on-going investigation of the SC Ethics Committee is being awaited.

In a statement, Ateneo Law School Dean Cesar L. Villanueva said that the SC’s Ethics Committee has assumed proper jurisdiction over the matter and that the public “should abide by the findings and its recommendations to the Supreme Court en banc.”

“Any call or demand for the resignation of Mr. Justice Del Castillo at this time when the committee has just began its work is not fair, and prejudges the case against a Justice of the Republic even before he has been given the constitutional right to defend himself. It also undermines in the public’s mind the results, findings and recommendations of the committee,” Dean Villanueva said.

In his Facebook account, Fr. Joaquin Bernas, a constitutionalist, said "there is a call from quarters for Justice Mariano del Castillo to resign because of a charge of plagiarism. But the case is with the Supreme Court now. Let us wait for the verdict of the Court. Like everyone else, Justice del Castillo is entitled to due process.”

Former Pamantansan ng Lungsod ng Maynila College of Law Dean Ernesto L. Pineda described as “premature” the call of UP Professors led by Dean Marvic Leonen of the UP College of Law for the resignation of Justice Mariano del Castillo.

“It is improper to put pressure upon the Committee in the performance of its duties. The situation is akin to a subjudice matter. The Committee resolution must first be awaited which we understand, would be submitted to the Supreme Court en banc for appropriate action….The Committee is in the best position to evaluate the issue of whether or not there is plagiarism. The concurrence of the members of the Committee to the Vinuya decision is not material because plagiarism was not an issue when they decided the case. Expectedly, the Committee will limit itself to the issue of plagiarism without touching on the merits of the case regarding the pending motion for reconsideration in the case,” Dean Pineda said. Meanwhile, Philippine Constitutional Assembly (Philconsa) President Manuel “Lolong” Lazaro said that the uploading in the internet of the alleged plagiarism “to place the ponente, the Court and the country in a bad light before the whole world” has caused and will continue to cause embarrassment and ill perceptions of the Supreme Court and its justices, the integrity of the legal profession and our country.

The uploading in the internet has unduly brought into disrepute the honesty, integrity and competence of the Supreme Court.

Lazaro stressed that “the ratio decidendi of the decision can stand legal scrutiny sans references to the articles plagiarized. The alleged plagiarism uploaded in the internet constitute direct contempt or contempt in facie curiae, a violation of the lawyers oath and a transgression of the Code of Professional Responsibility for which the person(s)/responsible must be made accountable.”

“The reprehensible and unorthodox resort of the internet must be addressed quickly and properly to avert its repetition, to save the judicial system from further disrepute,” he said.

Lazaro has urged the members of the bar to be more prudent and cautious in hurling accusations against the Supreme Court or any of its members so as to preserve and protect the institution that has embodied our highest aspirations for the attainment of justice.”

Philippine Association of Law Schools (PALS) President and Xavier University Law School Dean Raul Villanueva said that the public should “let the judicial process take its course.”

“We trust our SC and leave to the better judgment of the ethics committee members and the whole court,” Dean Villanueva said. The PALS is composed of more than 85 law schools all over the country. Its opinion is hands down on the most powerful view of the legal academic community and a true reflection of the sentiments of the academe.

In the meantime, Justice del Castillo has informed Chief Justice Renato C. Corona and the Associate Justices that he is inhibiting from further participation in the Vinuya case in light of “the allegations that have been thrown against [him],” and to disabuse the minds of parties as well as the public of any bias or partiality on his part. (PNA)

V3/GJB/JBR

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