Friday, October 29, 2010
For one thing, Justice Del Castillo's decision, now known as the Vinuya decision, turned down the women's plea for the Supreme Court to compel the Philippine government to push Japan to compensate those Filipinas who were affected by its soldiers' depredations. The motion for reconsideration has more or less stalled as the Supreme Court tackled the charges of plagiarism against Del Castillo, and went after those members of the UP Law faculty who signed a statement calling for Del Castillo's resignation.
Furthermore, Japan, on the whole, has been very hesitant to admit the evil its soldiers committed during World War Two. In Japanese schoolbooks, there seems to be a wholesale attempt to shield the next generation from what their forefathers did. In fact, a number of the country's Prime Ministers and government officials have flat out denied that coercion was used to force women into what came to be known as comfort stations, and have denied any compensation to the comfort women.
Perhaps what needs to be done is for those nations whose citizens were abused by the Japanese soldiers is to band together, and compel the Japanese government to acknowledge such abuse, and pay just compensation to those so affected.
Unfortunately, it looks like the Japanese government has all the time in the world to wait out the storm, and it is likely that the comfort women will pass away before any resolution is made, if at all. The Supreme Court and the Philippine government are doing these women no favors by delaying whatever action can be taken.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
The Supreme Court decision clearing Associate Justice Mariano Del Castillo and his legal researcher of having committed plagiarism also contained a directive to its Committee on Ethics and Ethical Standards to investigate the statement released by the UP College of Law, which accused Justice Del Castillo of plagiarism and called for his resignation from the Court. It has been surmised that the College would be held in contempt for speaking out on a matter that was still under consideration, and that the sanctions would include anything from being held in contempt to suspension from practicing law.
In the first place, the Court’s decision to clear Justice Del Castillo was ill-conceived, as it went against conventional beliefs about plagiarism. By acting in such a heavy-handed manner, the Supreme Court has been portrayed as a big bully, wielding a club against those who would speak out against it.
Admittedly, while part of a lawyer’s ethical code is to respect the decisions of the court, what happens when the Supreme Court is suspected of contravening ethical standards? As the popular question goes, “Who watches the watchmen?” If a member of the Court violates ethical standards, and the Court upholds such, who will hold them accountable?
By venting its ire on the UP College of Law faculty, the Court has opened itself to further criticism, as well as suspicions of coming out with an unpopular decision to save a colleague from embarrassment. In addition, every decision that the Court makes from hereon will be studied carefully for further counts of plagiarism. It’s also very possible, as I mentioned in my previous post, that previous Court decisions will be scrutinized. How the Court will respond should more plagiarism be discovered is anybody’s guess.
The Court’s decision to even mull sanctions against the UP College of Law faculty has drawn international attention. Even the authors of one of the works that was allegedly plagiarized have spoken up against what is perceived to be the heavy-handedness of the Court.
By pursuing the case against the UP Law faculty, the Supreme Court comes off as a big bully, which further lowers its credibility, which has been strained by a number of questionable decisions in this year alone, notably the infamous decision to allow former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to appoint the next Chief Justice. The Supreme Court can attempt to justify its actions, but the damage has already been done. Its image may have been irreparably damaged by its actions.
UPDATE: It appears I was mistaken. Apparently, the Supreme Court has already initiated moves to sanction the UP Law 37 (those who signed the statement calling for Del Castillo's resignation). In an order dated October 19, 2010, the Supreme Court has ordered the 37 law professors to explain why they should not be disciplined as members of the Bar. Of course, the order, signed by Associate Justice Martin Villarama, asserts that the allegations of plagiarism are just that, allegations.
While Justice Villarama may believe that the UP Law faculty "undermines the Court's honesty, integrity, and competence" by issuing the said statement, it is the Court that undermined itself by re-interpreting what plagiarism is in order to absolve their colleague.
After two weeks, enough has been said regarding the Supreme Court’s decision to clear Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo and his unnamed legal researcher regarding the plagiarism allegedly committed in his decision denying the petition of the ‘comfort ladies’ in asking the Philippine government to intervene in their case. However, the repercussions from the Court’s decision are serious to warrant further attention. In particular, the addition of intent in plagiarism, the Court’s actions on the statement of the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law, and the effect of the decision on the case of the comfort women will continue to generate comment. Due to the length of each repercussion, I’ll be dividing this post into three parts.
By clearing Justice del Castillo, the Supreme Court has, as dissenting Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno pointed out, added “malicious intent” as an element to plagiarism, a move which Justice Sereno notes, “will thus stand against the overwhelming conventions on what constitutes plagiarism.” In addition, those who commit plagiarism particularly in the academe can now, according to Justice Sereno, use lack of intent as an acceptable defense to get off the hook. I can only imagine the delight of those students who regularly copy and paste from the Internet, as the Supreme Court has given them a legitimate excuse when they face their disciplinary board.
In the past, whether one had intent or not was beside the point. The fact remained that he or she had failed to properly attribute the source, or give credit where credit is due. This was true in the case of businessman Manny Pangilinan, who stepped down as the chair of the Ateneo de Manila University’s Board of Trustees, after he had delivered a commencement speech that contained a number of plagiarized statements. Pangilinan actually was not to blame, at least totally, for that debacle, as he had delegated the writing of the speech to a ghostwriter.
In the same vein, Justice Del Castillo apparently delegated the writing of his decision to a legal researcher, who was discovered to have supposedly deleted key footnotes that caused the plagiarism to occur, or so the Supreme Court would have us believe. In Justice Sereno’s dissenting opinion, however, it doesn’t seem that way, as she notes a good number of plagiarized parts in Del Castillo’s decision that couldn’t have just been attributed to deleted footnotes.
In addition, the Supreme Court doesn’t do the researcher any justice by citing in its decision the researcher’s accomplishments, among them being the Editor in Chief of her school’s Law Journal, as well as holding a master’s degree in International Law from an American university. If anything, the researcher should have even been more meticulous in attributing to proper sources, given her lofty credentials.
The Supreme Court even invites ridicule by apparently placing blame on Microsoft Word for not having a way to alert the writer when a passage is accidentally deleted, which then led to the researcher not noticing that she had deleted footnotes. Unless artificial intelligence has been discovered, a computer program is only as good as the user, and it is the user who controls what is written in Microsoft Word. As Justice Sereno noted in her dissenting opinion, it is the writer who must exercise care in making sure that nothing is accidentally erased.
As it is, Justice Del Castillo could have just come clean, admit that he and his researcher were in error, and apologize for the apparently inadvertent lack of attribution of sources. The fact that he has not done so, and was not even required by the Court to do so, speaks volumes about how the Supreme Court would rather protect one of their own than admit that an error had been made.
In its desire to clear Justice Del Castillo, the Supreme Court has apparently decided to flout existing definitions and conventions of plagiarism, and create a new definition, one which now carries legal weight. By doing so, it invites people to scrutinize other Court decisions, to see if plagiarism has been committed there as well; such discovery may well reflect badly on the Court’s integrity and credibility. As it is, the lawyers representing the comfort women are said to be investigating another of Del Castillo’s decisions for more plagiarized work. It will be interesting to see how the Supreme Court will deal with this new case.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
As of last Monday, Metro Manila was under storm signal no. 1, which meant that only pre-schools would not have classes; everybody else would have to prepare for school or work. Yesterday, Metro Manila was still under signal no. 1, so I got ready for work.
Yesterday, at around 10 am, with constant rain coming down from early morning onwards, the DepEd announced that classes were suspended as of 12 noon, which brought both joy and consternation to students and teachers alike. For the students, there was joy tempered with the worry about how they would get home with the sudden announcement. For the teachers, the announcement meant that lessons and tests had to be rescheduled, although there was still a feeling of joy since a day-off is still something to look forward to.
At the same time, the suspension meant that students who commute or walk to school would have to be exposed to the elements, or, worse, have to wade through flood waters.
I can't help but feel sore at the DepEd's inconsistency. If there was a possibility that classes would be suspended due to heavy rains, then Bro. Luistro shouldn't have announced that we should simply follow the PAGASA bulletins. By making that announcement, Bro. Luistro was divesting himself of the responsibility of properly informing students and parents regarding the status of classes during stormy weather.
It should also be noted that not a word of his inconsistency was in the newspapers this morning. Maybe the editors thought that it was not newsworthy?
The DepEd's inconsistency in dealing with such situations would have been disastrous had there been an "Ondoy"-type deluge; it should be remembered that, when "Ondoy" dropped a month's worth of rain in a day last year, Metro Manila was only under storm signal no. 1. The DepEd should be more proactive in dealing with situations like these, instead of the hand-washing that happened.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
I'm talking, of course, about the rescue of the 33 Chilean miners, who managed to survive underground for 69 days after a disastrous mine collapse (read about the details here.), which, I've read, is the longest time anyone has ever stayed underground. Despite their dire situation, the miners managed to organize themselves and ration their supplies until rescuers were able to drill deep enough to make contact with them 18 days later.
The fact that these men managed to survive for so long is a tribute to the strength of the human spirit that, even under duress, man will find ways and means in order to live.
Kudos to the 33 miners, for their ingenuity and discipline.
Kudos to the rescue team, for their dedication and care in effecting a successful rescue.
The most recent moves of the Aquino government can only cause one to question whether the current administration is following any rule of law. From a bystander’s point of view, it seems that the President, and his advisers, is eschewing the lessons of the past, and committing them all over again.
The first move was for him to water down the recommendations of his own incident investigation and review committee (IIRC) on the August 23, 2010 hostage tragedy, and absolve all of the higher ups, and charge those on the ground. It helps to note that Undersecretary Rico Puno, a close friend of the President, was not held responsible for the fiasco which resulted in the deaths of 8 Hong Kong nationals.
The President chose to ignore the fact that Puno was specifically placed in charge of the police, who admittedly bungled the hostage crisis due to poor training, but, whatever happened to command responsibility? President Aquino chose to delegate the task of overseeing the police to Puno over Aquino’s own Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, so shouldn’t Puno be held responsible for the tragedy?
It doesn’t help that, before the President’s report on the IIRC review, Puno was already decrying the alleged “demolition job” that was being hatched, by his account, no less than five groups. It would be nice if USec Puno gave any concrete proof for his accusations, but, unfortunately, he decided, like many a public official before him, to take his case to the media.
It also doesn’t help that, in defense of his embattled friend, President Aquino stated that Puno was very skilled, and cited Puno’s being an agriculturist as one of his friend’s achievements. It then begs the question as to why Puno was placed in charge of the police; was it just because he’s a gun enthusiast? The President’s attempt at defending his friend only highlighted Puno’s being unqualified for his current position. If Puno was any sort of friend to Aquino, he would resign to save his friend from further humiliation.
The second move was the recent amnesty proclamation for those involved in the Oakwood mutiny and the Peninsula takeover, notably Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, Gen. Danny Lim, and Col. Ariel Querubin. Despite the fact that these men had caused panic and hysteria by their actions, President Aquino has decided to pardon their crimes.
Cynically speaking, it’s possible that the President’s move is to increase his allies in the Senate. Ever since Trillanes was elected as Senator in 2007, he has been unable to attend any Senate session due to his incarceration. By freeing him, the President adds one more vote in his favor to be able to push his agenda.
It should also be noted that Gen. Lim ran for Senator under the Liberal Party ticket last elections, while Col. Querubin ran under the Nacionalista Party. While both of them lost, setting them free may earn points with his allies, as well as those allied with Sen. Manny Villar, the losing Nacionalista Party candidate.
The amnesty sends the wrong message. As it is, Gen. Lim would be the beneficiary of two amnesties, since he also participated in the coup attempts against the administration of President Noynoy’s mother, Cory. It indicates a lack of respect for the due process of law, as the cases against the mutineers has yet to be resolved. In fact, the amnesty comes just before the trial hearing of the mutineers, so there seems to be some timing involved.
While these moves are troubling, it’s probably not surprising for President Aquino to make these moves. His mother, the late President Cory Aquino, was also known for her closeness to her friends and her too-forgiving heart. She sided with then-Makati Mayor Binay when he was about to be slapped with corruption charges, and apologized to ex-President and convicted plunderer Joseph Estrada. In this, President Noynoy is his mother’s son.
Unfortunately, those traits are what characterized the weakness of his mother’s administration, and, by his actions, President Noynoy shows the very same weaknesses.
Friday, October 01, 2010
Philippine Inquirer columnist Recah Trinidad tried to belittle the Ateneo effort by insinuating, in two columns (here and here), no less, that there was game-fixing. In one of the columns, he quotes Philippine Star columnist William Esposo as saying, “Who believes that Ateneo is stronger than FEU?”
I believe. Many an Ateneo fan believes.
Apparently, the Ateneo Blue Eagles also believed in themselves, since they managed to display a championship spirit as they played gritty basketball and held on for the win and the championship, 65-62, over a more fancied FEU Tamaraws squad. With the win, Ateneo completes the three-peat feat, winning three straight championships in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament.
At first, it seemed that Trinidad’s words would ring true, as FEU sped off to a 21-13 lead in the first quarter. However, the Blue Eagles managed to right the ship, and caught up with the Tamaraws so as to take the lead for a brief moment in the second quarter, only to end the first half trailing by one. Still, it put Ateneo in a better position to start the second half, and, by the end of the third quarter, Ateneo was leading by one.
In the fourth quarter, it was still touch and go for the Ateneo squad, as the Tamaraws were holding tough down the stretch. The key back-breaker was Ryan Buenafe’s 3-pointer with 22 seconds to go. Buenafe’s in-your-face shot upped the lead to 6, and took the game out of the Tamaraws’ hands.
It was noted that FEU’s head coach Glenn Capacio was nowhere to be seen in the second half; apparently, he was suffering from high blood pressure. Still, his assistants managed to keep the game close, but to no avail. MVP RR Garcia was held down to six points; Rookie of the Year Terence Romeo, who displayed a jittery game as he fouled out, only had two. Power forward Reil Cervantes helped keep the game close with 15 points.
With the win, Ateneo coach cements himself as one of the great coaches of the UAAP. Despite having no major individual awards except for Emman Monfort’s Most Improved Player (and tied with RR Garcia at that), Black took the Blue Eagles, and molded them into a team, playing greater than the sum of its part.
With the close of the UAAP basketball season, Ateneans will be saying good-bye to team captain Eric Salamat, and Edwin Escueta, as well as Bacon Austria and Tonino Gonzaga, but they’ll leave behind a great legacy for future players to be inspired. Congratulations to the UAAP men’s basketball team! One Big Fight!