(Article published in the Nov 10, 2010
issue of Manila Standard Today)
The Statement of the University of the Philippines Diliman Executive Committee, entitled “No to Plagerism! Asserting Academic Freedom” and dated 27 October 2010, despite my points of disagreement to be discussed below, is, in my view, a wonderful piece to behold. It effectively debunks the adage, whose originator I would like to acknowledge but do not know his or her name, that “you cannot have your cake and eat it, too.” Yes, the UP Diliman Executive Committee can.
By carefully crafting their statement, the UP Diliman Executive Committee members were able to appear courageously joining the plagiarism fray, without, however exposing themselves to the trouble that some UP Law faculty got themselves into. A lesson on how to carp without getting into some crap.
Unlike the UP law professor’s stand that seemed crafted to come out in print media, it was made public via cyberspace, using as platform the UP Diliman’s website, www.upd.edu.ph. This simple choice of what communication channel to use says a lot since, as someone I do not know has said, “the medium is the message.”
Just by being on the UP
Diliman website, for instance, projects the aura of being official. After
all, neither every thing nor any thing can be posted on UP Diliman website;
the mere fact that the UP Diliman Executive Committee’s statement was so
posted thus implies, by accident or design I know not, that the statement
has at the very least the official blessings of the group in UP whose
statement it purports to be, notwithstanding the absence of “SGD” that was
ubiquitous in the UP Law professors’.
The posting at the UP Diliman website also projects the statement, as it in fact proclaims itself as coming from the Executive Committee, which I understand is the highest level of authority in the area, similar to an ex cathedra pronouncement, as if saying to lesser beings, “Silence, we, your gods, are speaking.” Thus, it not so subtley asserts that not only does the statement have the permission of the gods, it IS the statement of the gods.
The subtitle leaves no doubt: “A Statement of the University of the Philippines Diliman Executive Committee”. We barbarians who do not know, by footnote told that that committee is “composed of “the Deans/Directors of the different Colleges and Schools in UP Diliman, including the Chancellor, Vice Chancellors, University Registrar and three members-at-large.” Indeed, gods greater than these Olympus never had.
From that exalted perch of the academe, the members of the Executive Committee thus, as a body, have the moral authority to, as the initial sentence indicates they in fact do, “denounce plagiarism and uphold academic integrity.” And they are at liberty to rub it in, as well, to wit: “As educators, scholars and researchers, our worth is measured by the integrity, excellence and discipline we bring to our work. Plagiarism undermines that integrity and destroys the value of scholarship.”
Also because they are academicians and because they are speaking within the parameters of the academy, they are, of course, free to state what they may think of decisions of the Supreme Court. For this reason, I am not at all bothered by their saying, “We strongly disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision to exonerate Justice Mariano del Castillo from charges of plagiarism based on the lack of malice or negligence on his part (in In Re: Del Castillo, A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC, 15 October 2010).
Decisions of the highest court of the land are accepted punching bags for educators, scholars and researchers boxing with their shadows in the halls of the academe. Particularly in those institutions where law is taught through the case method, dissecting a decision and ribbing the ratiocination are common sports. The only requirement is that one’s view must be supported by some semblance of justification. Thus, it was not surprising that the statement of disagreement was immediately followed by “the lack of malice or intent does not excuse the act of plagiarism.”
For as long as the context was the stratosphere of the academe, the Executive Committee’s statement was faultless. It got murky, however, when it descended to the real world. It declared that the Supreme Court had “undermined academic freedom by threatening to discipline 37 faculty members of the UP College of Law for taking a principled position on a grave academic concern.”
The Executive Committee’s statement was, on the accusation of “undermining academic freedom”, referring to the show cause order directed by the Supreme Court against their colleagues on 19 October 2010; the alleged “principled stand”, it can be inferred, is the statement of 37 UP Law Faculty members “on the allegations of plagiarism and misrepresentation in the Supreme Court” issued on 27 July 2010.
With due respects, I take issue with the description that the purported UP Law Faculty Statement was a “principled stand.”
Labeling the decision of the Supreme Court in Vinuya v. Executive Secretary, G.R. No. 162230, promulgated 28 April 2010, in the opening paragraph as “an extraordinary act of injustice [that] has again been committed against the brave Filipinas who had suffered abuse during the war” (Underline mine) and describing it as “a singularly reprehensible act of dishonesty and misrepresentation by the Highest Court of the land,” (Underline mine) do not fall within my understanding, which is obviously finite, of what is “principled.”
And seen in the light of the fifth “opinion” in the last paragraph of the UP Law Faculty statement that “the Supreme Court MUST take this opportunity to review the manner by which IT conducts research, prepares drafts, reaches and finalizes decisions in order to prevent a recurrence of similar acts…” (Uppercase mine), the tenor of statement sounds more like a slap on the face of the Supreme Court, a verbal “sampal,” rather than an ode to principle; clearly, in the view of this Tondo Boy, them are fighting words.
The UP Diliman Executive Committee statement, in contrast, is a study in precision. While the members are said to “stand by the UP College of Law Faculty”, they were quick to qualify their support only “for [their colleagues’] speaking out against plagiarism.” And not including in their show of support by the operation of “inclusio unius, exclusio alterius” (a maxim coined apparently by a latin speaking person I want to acknowledge if only I knew who), for their colleagues’ scurrilous attack on the Supreme Court.
I would not be surprised therefore if the Supreme Court were to simply ignore the UP Diliman Executive Committee’s demand on “the Supreme Court to withdraw the “show cause” order against the 37 faculty members of the UP College of Law.” I predict that the highest court will let it pass by it like the idle wind that it respects not.