It would have been a joke, except that it became a serious question–with dire implications on our freedom of expression and on our democracy model. I am referring to the Supreme Court plagiarism decision (or at least to the decision of the 10 of them who usually come together regularly in many politically-sensitive decisions).
However, this time it’s not politics, but an academic-related matter. The Supreme Court decided (with landmark implications) that one of its justices, Justice Mariano del Castillo, has no intent to plagiarize, there was no plagiarism done, and that his poor researcher (may he or she retain his/her job!) and Microsoft Word (shame on you Bill Gates!) were the ones who made an honest mistake in copying and pasting whole sections of three works by international law experts into the main text of Justice del Castillo’s decision.
To top it all, these same group of justices had the temerity to put the UP College of Law faculty members on the dock for putting out a statement condemning the del Castillo plagiarism and asking for his resignation. In this, they already crossed from being a joke to being an oppressor. It’s not a laughing matter anymore.
I agree with the position that plagiarism is plagiarism is plagiarism. When you flagrantly appropriate the writings of others and pass it off as your own, it is plagiarism. When you put it as part of your main text without attribution and/or separation quote marks, it is plagiarism. When you do it again and again, it is plagiarism. When you put your name to the plagiarized text, it is plagiarism.
Intent does not come into this, much more malicious intent. Intent is not a requirement in defining plagiarism. The ploy to throw the blame on the researcher cannot stand the test of responsibility. It is a pathetic ploy and only confirms that the principal author does not or is very careless in his editing or even writing his own signed work.
Justice del Castillo is a plagiarist. No amount of threats of repression by his old-boy’s club in the Supreme Court will erase this fact. If he still has the honor, he should have already resigned yesterday. As for the “show cause” justices, they should better take it easy. They are now crossing into the political arena under the floodlights of an awakened people in a democratic society.