Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Word-for-word

For the past days, I was reminded how hard it is to write for a printed publication because I've gotten so used to blogging—writing that's free from the rudiments of external editing or keeping to word number limitations.

I keep a small column in UP Medics called In(ter)jection which appears on the Opinion pages. My editor told me I could write about anything I wanted. It's my space; I can do anything. AAce Agdamag is so gracious like that.

For this next issue, I wanted to write something substantial (I wrote about Facebook the last time, and the piece was just horrible). And I thought of the plagiarism issue in the Supreme Court. The high court's decision that Justice Mariano del Castillo did not commit plagiarism because of the absence of malicious intent has far-reaching consequences, especially in the academic world.

I haven't asked permission from my editor to post the column in its entirety, but I'm sure she wouldn't mind if I publish the excerpt here.

Plagiarism. The word didn't mean a thing in my high school, the glorious days when we could lift entire paragraphs from websites without the tedious hassle of citing the source. Copy-and-paste was the operative word then. The assignment was for the sake of completion, not for academic discussion, and some of my classmates never got caught, even if they padded their essays with lines from Britney Spears's songs without citing her as reference. 
But that was high school, the time when we could joke around without any major consequences—that excludes getting pregnant, of course. When I studied in UP, though, that all changed. When I submitted my papers, I had to cite my sources. I had to paraphrase. All these I did with a religiosity spurred by my fear of getting kicked out. 
I don't know how it is with other schools, but we know that our professors here are always on the prowl, like lions, for intellectual dishonesty—and rightly so. UP, after all, is an academic institution. For the University to be of any value to this country, it must maintain its integrity. The institution—in fact, any institution that operates on the basis of mutual trust—will crumble if it doesn't keep its defenses. 
It doesn't surprise me then that it was the Law faculty members from UP who called for the resignation of Supreme Court Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo. The charge? Plagiarism. 
Del Castillo allegedly copied word-for-word the works of American scholars when he wrote his court decision about comfort women on April of this year. The UP Law faculty claimed that he "merely copied select portions of other legal writers’ works and interspersed them into the decision as if they were his own, original work." 
That accusation is grave. If a Supreme Court justice can copy other people's works, he can be dishonest with anything.

I'll publish the whole article as soon as the newsletter is released. For now, take time to read Justice Maria Lourdes Aranal-Sereno's dissenting opinion. Brilliantly written and very insightful, it places you in a strategic position where you can decide for yourself.

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