(Article published in the Dec 1, 2010
issue of Manila Standard Today)
The Compliance filed on 19 November 2010 by the UP academicians who were respondents in the administrative case entitled “Re: Letter of the UP Law Faculty Entitled ‘Restoring Integrity: A Statement By the Faculty of the University of the Philippines College of Law on the Allegations of Plagiarism and Misrepresentation in the Supreme Court, A.M. 10-10-4-SC” is a document worth reading. Without meaning to predict how it will eventually be evaluated, on the merits, by the Supreme Court, I am highlighting some of its major points for the public to understand both the way legal positions are usually argued by advocates and the eventual disposition of the case, whatever that disposition might turn out to be.
After the usual naming of the parties done in the introductory paragraphs, the professor’s Compliance begins with a “Preface”. Unlike the Preface of a book, which according to Gilbert K. Chesterton runs the risk of being skipped, the Preface of a pleading submitted in court is almost always what is actually read. In fact, cynics say that only the initial paragraphs of a pleading, given a voluminous submission, is more often than not the only portion read with attention by the judge; the rest is allegedly simply skimmed. In the Preface of a pleading, in contrast, is therefore usually to be found the lawyer’s best shot not only at summarizing but also in pushing his case.
Paragraph 1 of the
Compliance’s Preface starts with what appears to be a factual statement:
“The Show Cause Resolution requires respondents to explain why they should
not be sanctioned for having issued the statement “Restoring Integrity: …”
That statement, however, is not for everyone entirely accurate.
Compare it with the first directive in the WHEREFORE clause: “…members of the faculty of the University of the Philippines College of Law, are directed to SHOW CAUSE, within ten (10) days from receipt of a copy of this Resolution, why they should not be disciplined as members of the Bar for violation of Canons 10, 11, and 13 and Rules 1.02 and 11.05 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.”
Since there is nothing in Canons 10, 11, and 13 and Rules 1.02 and 11.05 of the Code of Professional Responsibility that speaks of issuance of any statement (those provisions deal with acts not with statements), the advocates of the UP law professors are obviously taking the liberty in Paragraph 1 of the Preface of presenting the offense that they are accused of as that of their “having issued the statement “Restoring Integrity…” and not that of, as a literal reading of the Show Cause order suggests, committing acts that in the mind of the Supreme Court were contrary to the aforesaid rules.
How the Supreme Court will take that difference in formulation of what the UP law academicians are being made to justify remains to be seen.
The next paragraph of the Preface exhibits another trick (in addition to the foregoing reformulation) in the advocate’s bag. The first sentence reads: “For the record, the Restoring Integrity Statement was an expression of the ‘opinion of the faculty’ as acknowledged by the Supreme Court in its Show Cause Resolution.” (Italics in the original; underscore mine)
The sentence from which the quoted phrase, “opinion of the faculty” is reproduced in toto in footnote 8 of the Compliance. Footnote 8, quoting the Show Cause Order, in its relevant parts, reads: “while the [Restoring Integrity Statement] was meant to reflect the educator’s opinion on the allegations of plagiarism against Justice Del Castillo, they treated such allegation not only as an established fact, but a truth.” (Bold in Footnote 8; uncertain whether in the text of the Show Cause Resolution itself)
What is obvious is that the UP law professors’ advocates quoted only a part of the entire first sentence, not the whole.
What needs to be examined by the discerning reader is whether the Supreme Court’s Show Cause Resolution really acknowledged that the Restoring Integrity Satement was a mere reflection of “the educator’s opinion”, as asserted by the UP professors’ advocates, or whether what was simply acknowledged by the Supreme Court was the statement’s authors’ meaning to, or intent to, express their’ opinion.
Those who were educated along the principle of taking a statement in its entirety rather than only in its selected parts would have an easy time resolving that question.
And, further, those familiar with the art of footnoting would raise their eyebrows in the use of “Cf.” to refer to the source of the quoted portion of the above reproduced sentence in the Show Cause Resolution.
The revered work entitled “Philippine Manual of Legal Citations” published by the College of Law of the University of the Philippines explains what is meant by “cf” as a standard signal: “Indicates a case which is parallel to or supports the proposition but contains substantially different facts.” Since what is referred to in that Footnote 3 is “page 3, second paragraph of the Show Cause Resolution” it is an interesting side question on whether Marlin M. Magallona had noticed such use. Marlin M. Magallona is both a confessed respondent in the Show Cause Resolution as well as a co-author, together with Professors Irene R. Cortes and Myrna S. Feliciano of that bible on Philippine legal citations.
The most significant portion of the Preface, however, is the first sentence in Paragraph 3, which in its relevant portion states that “Respondents manifest that they acted with the purest of intentions, guided only by their duty of ‘candor, fairness and good faith to the Court’.”
A good question to ask, for those who are interested in legal drafting, is whether acting “with the purest of intentions” is the same as, similar to, or simply different from, “acting without malice.”Lack of space prevents further scrutiny at this time. Perhaps, pausing for a reply from the UP law professor’s advocates or waiting for the determination by the Supreme Court, if it is so minded, is the better posture for now.