(Article published in the Dec 8, 2010
issue of Manila Standard Today)
The Compliance filed to the Supreme Court by UP Law Dean Marvic Leonen in submission to the that part of the Show Cause order of 19 October 2010 addressed to him, requiring him to explain why he submitted a dummy that was not a true and faithful reproduction of the UP Law Professors’ Statement entitled “Restoring Integrity: A Statement by the Faculty of UP College of Law on Allegations of Plagiarism and Misrepresentation by the Supreme Court” is a masterful piece of making excuses.
On the very first page, it asserts that, in relation to the preparation of the statement, he “observed the full measure of candor, fairness and good faith commanded by Canon 10, and Rules 10.1, 10.2 and 10.3 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and acted without artifice, and without any intention to deceive or mislead.” That denial is necessary to set the tone of avoidance that would have to be imbedded in the confession that followed.
How does the good UP Law dean explain why what came with his letter to the Supreme Court was not a true and faithful reproduction of the original?
He begins by saying that
the Restoring Integrity Statement “evolved out of collegial discussions
among members of the UP Law Faculty that lasted until July 2010.” It had,
says he, three versions: (a) Version One had signing spaces for the entire
roster of the faculty and the signatures of 37 members and was the one
submitted to the Supreme Court by Atty. Harry Roque’s office; (b) Version
Two had no actual signatures but the legend “SGD” indicated those who had
actually signed; and (c) Version Three was a reprint of Version Two but had
additional eight actual (8) signatures.
Version One was first printed out by Dean Leonen’s staff on his instructions on July 27, 2010 for all those who wanted to sign. On that day, he did not know that Harry Roque had filed his motion for reconsideration and the Supreme Court in reaction to the accusation therein of its plagiarism was organizing its Ethics Committee and Ethical Standards.
After about two weeks, Dean Leonen had his staff “reformat” the signing pages so as to include only the names, and the notation “SGD”, of those who signed Version One. That reformatted version is Version Two. He further asserts that the elimination of the names of those who did not sign was not “so much as for aesthetic consideration as to secure the integrity of the document(s). The incidental effect that the deletion of the names of those who did not sign gave the impression, when taken together with the title that announced that it is was “A Statement of the Faculty of UP College of Law”, deprived the discerning reader of seeing the contrast between the number in roster of the entire faculty and the number of those who actually signed was, of course, not intended.
The good dean, upon seeing the Version Two noticed that it purported to convey that Justice Vicente Mendoza did sign the statement when in truth he did not. He was, however, assured by his unnamed administrative assistant that the retired justice was leaving for the United States and therefore could not sign the statement; the good justice thus, according to his administrative assistant, had authorized the good dean to sign for him. The good dean had no reason to doubt his administrative assistant’s version and so did not have the “SGD” altered. That the statement would have had less gravitas had it been glaringly made public by a version that showed that Justice Mendoza did not sign Version Two was, of course, not a consideration. This Version Two, that purported that the statement was also signed by Justice Mendoza, was what was sent to the Supreme Court by Dean Leonen.
After the posting of Version Two, additional faculty members appeared to have wanted to also sign. Hence, Version Three was printed out to accommodate the late signers.
Subsequently, Justice Mendoza told Dean Leonen that “he was no longer signing the Statement considering that it had already become controversial.” It appears that the good justice found uncomfortable his situation of being a former member of the court signing a statement that accused his colleagues of plagiarism.
The text of the Statement had remained unaltered in Versions One, Two and Three. Only the “signature page” had changed. That the impact on the assessment by the public of ebb and flow of those who actually signed as distinguished from who were actually made to appear to have signed, was, of course, not a consideration at all.
And so, comes now Dean Leonen arguing that he really did not submit a “dummy” to the Supreme Court. There was confusion was confounded by the printing and reprinting of same text to make way for the purported signatories. By implication, it was members of his staff, if any one be at all at fault, that may have been the ones who blew it.
Academics, and more so the top academic honco, on account of the strain of seeking truth, cannot be blamed and in fact ought be excused, if not forgiven, for being absent-minded. And yes, Dean Leonen, there is a Santa Claus.