RE Letter of the UP Law Faculty_Archie
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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. No. 10-10-4-SC, 08 March 2011, EN BANC, (Leonardo-De Castro, J.) Sanction awaits a subordinate who misbehaves. The right to criticize the courts and judicial officers must be balanced against the equally primordial concern that the independence of the Judiciary be protected from due influence or interference. In cases where the critics are not only citizens but members of the Bar, jurisprudence has repeatedly affirmed the authority of this Court to discipline lawyers whose statements regarding the courts and fellow lawyers, whether judicial or extrajudicial, have exceeded the limits of fair comment and common decency. Shortly after the promulgation of the Supreme Court decision in Vinuya v. Executive Secretary (the Vinuya decision), the case involving the Filipino comfort women during the Japanese occupation, the counsel for the petitioners therein filed, first, a Motion for Reconsideration reiterating the fundamental responsibility of states in protecting its citizens’ human rights specifically pertaining to jus cogens norms and, second, a supplement thereto asserting that the Vinuya decision was plagiarized from different sources and that the true intents of the plagiarized sources were twisted by the ponente, Justice Mariano del Castillo (Justice del Castillo), to suit the arguments laid down in said decision. Vis-a-vis the Court’s formation of an ethics committee tasked to investigate the veracity of the alleged plagiarism, the authors who were purportedly plagiarized sent their respective letters to the Supreme Court, noting the misreading and/or misrepresentation of their articles. Hence, in their articles, they argue that the crimes of rape, torture and sexual slavery can be classified as crimes against humanity, thus attaining the jus cogens status; consequently, it shall be obligatory upon the State to seek remedies on behalf of its aggrieved citizens. However, the Vinuya decision cited them to support the contrary stand. In response to this controversy, the faculty of UP College of Law came up with a statement 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” (Restoring Integrity Statement), which statement alleged plagiarism against Justice del Castillo, treating the same not only as an established fact, but as a truth. Said statement was posted online and at the College’s bulletin board and was submitted to the Supreme Court. The manner in presenting the arguments and the language used therein, the Court believed, were inappropriate considering its signatories are lawyers. Thus, the Supreme Court issued a Show Cause Resolution directing respondents to show cause why they should not be disciplined as members of the Bar for
violations of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Conversely, compliance to such resolution was unsatisfactory, except for one respondent. ISSUES: 1.) Whether or not the Show Cause Resolution denies respondents their freedom of expression 2.) Whether or not the Show Cause Resolution violates respondents’ academic freedom as law professors
HELD: Petition DENIED. The Show Cause Resolution does not deny respondents their freedom of expression A reading of the Show Cause Resolution will plainly show that it was neither the fact that respondents had criticized a decision of the Court nor that they had charged one of its members of plagiarism that motivated the said Resolution. It was the manner of the criticism and the contumacious language by which respondents, who are not parties nor counsels in the Vinuya case, have expressed their opinion in favor of the petitioners in the said pending case for the “proper disposition” and consideration of the Court that gave rise to said Resolution. The Show Cause Resolution painstakingly enumerated the statements that the Court considered excessive and uncalled for under the circumstances surrounding the issuance, publication, and later submission to this Court of the UP Law faculty’s Restoring Integrity Statement. The right to criticize, which is guaranteed by the freedom of speech and of expression in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution, must be exercised responsibly, for every right carries with it a corresponding obligation. Freedom is not freedom from responsibility, but freedom with responsibility. Thus, proscribed are the use of unnecessary language which jeopardizes high esteem in courts, creates or promotes distrust in judicial administration, or tends necessarily to undermine the confidence of people in the integrity of the members of the Court. In other words, while a lawyer is entitled to present his case with vigor and courage, such enthusiasm does not justify the use of offensive and abusive language. Language abounds with countless possibilities for one to be emphatic but respectful, convincing but not derogatory, illuminating but not offensive. In a long line of cases, the Court has held that the right to criticize the courts and judicial officers must be balanced against the equally primordial concern that the independence of the Judiciary be protected from due influence or interference. In cases where the critics are not only citizens but members of the Bar, jurisprudence has repeatedly affirmed the authority of this Court to discipline lawyers whose statements regarding the courts and fellow lawyers,
whether judicial or extrajudicial, have exceeded the limits of fair comment and common decency. The Show Cause Resolution does not violate respondents’ academic freedom as law professors There is nothing in the Show Cause Resolution that dictates upon respondents the subject matter they can teach and the manner of their instruction. Moreover, it is not inconsistent with the principle of academic freedom for this Court to subject lawyers who teach law to disciplinary action for contumacious conduct and speech, coupled with undue intervention in favor of a party in a pending case, without observing proper procedure, even if purportedly done in their capacity as teachers. Academic freedom cannot be successfully invoked by respondents in this case. The constitutional right to freedom of expression of members of the Bar may be circumscribed by their ethical duties as lawyers to give due respect to the courts and to uphold the public’s faith in the legal profession and the justice system. The Court believes that the reason that freedom of expression may be so delimited in the case of lawyers applies with greater force to the academic freedom of law professors. The Court reiterates that lawyers when they teach law are considered engaged in the practice of law. Unlike professors in other disciplines and more than lawyers who do not teach law, respondents are bound by their oath to uphold the ethical standards of the legal profession. Thus, their actions as law professors must be measured against the same canons of professional responsibility applicable to acts of members of the Bar as the fact of their being law professors is inextricably entwined with the fact that they are lawyers.