In The Matter Of The Charges Of Plagiarism Against Associate Justice Del Castillo (A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC)

Facts:

Petitioners Isabelita C. Vinuya, et al., all members of the Malaya Lolas Organization, seek reconsideration of the decision of the Court that dismissed their charges of plagiarism against Justice Mariano Del Castillo in connection with the decision he wrote for the Court in Vinuya v. Romulo. Petitioners claim that the Court has by its decision legalized or approved of the commission of plagiarism in the Philippines.

Issue:

Whether or not respondent committed plagiarism and/or infringement by failing to cite his sources in a case he penned.

Ruling: NO.

There is a basic reason for individual judges of whatever level of courts, including the Supreme Court, not to use original or unique language when reinstating the laws involved in the cases they decide. Their duty is to apply the laws as these are written. But laws include, under the doctrine of stare decisis, judicial interpretations of such laws as are applied to specific situations. Under this doctrine, Courts are “to stand by precedent and not to disturb settled point.” And because judicial precedents are not always clearly delineated, they are quite often entangled in apparent inconsistencies or even in contradictions, prompting experts in the law to build up regarding such matters a large body of commentaries or annotations that, in themselves, often become part of legal writings upon which lawyers and judges draw materials for their theories or solutions in particular cases. And, because of the need to be precise and correct, judges and practitioners alike, by practice and tradition, usually lift passages from such precedents and writings, at times omitting, without malicious intent, attributions to the originators.

Notably, those foreign authors expressly attributed the controversial passages found in their works to earlier writings by others. The authors concerned were not themselves the originators. As it happened, although the ponencia of Justice Del Castillo accidentally deleted the attribution to them, there remained in the final draft of the decision attributions of the same passages to the earlier writings from which those authors borrowed their ideas in the first place. In short, with the remaining attributions after the erroneous clean-up, the passages as it finally appeared in the Vinuya decision still showed on their face that the lifted ideas did not belong to Justice Del Castillo but to others. He did not pass them off as his own.

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