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The cause needed to be shown

(Article published in the Nov 3, 2010 issue of Manila Standard Today)   

 My latest information is that the UP professors who on August 9 in chorus gave a show of solidarity with a rendition of a piece that began with “Restoring Integrity…” had asked for 20 days, or until November 22, to file what in their minds is the appropriate response to the Supreme Court’s show cause order of October 19.

 First instance motions for extension of time are usually granted and since there seems no reason why the additional period asked for ought not be given them, I assume the court would not, if it has not yet acted on it, hesitate to accede to the request.  If so, the matter of the propriety of their behavior, subject of the said October 19 order is therefore, technically, sub judice.

 Sub judice principles, however, are not absolute black-out orders and do permit, as this piece will attempt, a clarification, even while the case is pending, of the raging issues for the better understanding by the public both of the legal argumentation that the process would involve and the eventual resolution thereof, whatever that might be.

 Not to be drowned out by the cacophony of voices elicited by the show cause order and crucial to the appreciation of its burden, is the time when the UP statement was issued. The Vinuya case, was at that time and still is, to my knowledge, pending. And the time was very essential to its intended impact.

 The UP statement, to be sure, was not the first time the public was made aware of the alleged plagiarism at the level of the Supreme Court. The accusation of plagiarism was first brought out officially in the supplemental motion filed by the lawyers of the petitioners for the reconsideration of Venuya.


 But before that, or about forty days after he filed said motion for reconsideration, Harry Roque, one of the lawyers of the petitioners, blogged, on July 18, that he would file a supplement which, among other things, would detail the plagiarism in the decision.  The next day he suited the action to the word.

 Harry obviously intended by his blog disclosure and subsequently supplement to impact the resolution of the motion for reconsideration of Venuya. Had it been otherwise, Harry would have filed a separate case (and Harry has not been known to be frugal in filing cases) against whomever he thought was guilty of the offense of plagiarism, if indeed there is such an offense in the case of judicial decisions.

 The intent, as a primary motivation, to have the Supreme Court rethink Venuya is, in contrast, not as obvious in August 9 statement of the UP professors. Coming as it did a little over a month after the Roque blog and supplemental motion, the UP law statement purports, by its title, to “restore integrity”.  The obvious implication is that integrity has been lost somehow and this bunch of statement makers is seeking, by speaking out, to restore it.  By what right, legal or moral, they have in sanctimony assumed the role, is left  unanswered.  Suffice it for us men with dirty shoes, they seem to say, that it is they, UP law professors, who are speaking.

 That they are making common cause with Harry Roque, in affecting the outcome of Vinuya, may, nonetheless, be inferred from the tenor of their statements. The UP statement opens, with “An extraordinary act of injustice has again been committed against the brave Filipinas who had suffered abuse during a time of war.” (Underline mine). The give away word is “again”.

 The time of war had long passed.  But the UP professors assert that the “extraordinary act of injustice has again been committed…”  The obvious question is, by whom this time? And, additionally, in what manner?

 The answers, proffered by the UP law professors themselves, were not too tardy in coming.  The initial Paragraph of the UP law statement fingers the “Highest Court of the land” as to the who.

 And as to the how, it was not lacking in specificity, not to mention pejorative expressions.  The UP law professors lamented that the court dragged its feet in the Venuya case and eventually wrongfully decided it on suspect authority (“polluted” was their word of choice); it was, they continued, callous as well as falsely sympathetic and nonchalant, not to mention wanting in “concern for even the most basic values of decency and respect.”

 The rationale for those statements is the cause that need to be shown.

 Let the res (Paragraph 9 of the UP law statement) ipsa loquitur: “…instead of acting with urgency on this case, the Court delayed its resolution for almost seven years, oblivious of the deaths of so many of the petitioners seeking justice from the Court.  When it dismissed the Venuya petition based on misrepresented and plagiarized materials, the Court decided this case based on polluted sources.  By doing so, the Court added insult to injury by failing to actually exercise its power to ‘urge and exhort the Executive Department to take up the claims of the Venuya petitioners.  Its callous disposition, coupled with false sympathy and nonchalance, belies a more alarming lack of concern for even the most basic values of decency and respect.”

 In the streets of Tondo where I grew up, “Them”, even for those not schooled at the premier Lakan Dula Elementary School at Solis, “are fighting words.”  Those words, we, heirs to the Lakan, take as a challenge to put up or shut up, as provocative as the Spanish “…leche de su mama”, and as assertive of the  addresee’s down cast station in life as the Tagalog expression beginning with the “P” adjective referring to one’s mother. 

 Consequently, I do not agree that the Supreme Court ought not, as some of my colleagues have argued, have issued the show cause order.  To have done so and to have thus shrieked from the challenge would have been equivalent to conceding that the UP law professors are a people set apart, more supreme than the Supreme Court.  In my book, they are not.

 Whatever it is that the Supreme Court may do thereafter, it was but meet and just, from where I sit, that it ordered the UP law professors to come on bended knee.  And I trust they will.