On Plagiarism

On October 15, 2010, the Philippine Supreme Court made a decision that would lead to the death of academic and intellectual integrity in the country. Justice del Castillo was tried for allegedly plagiarizing international literature in his court decision and was cleared of these charges.

In July 2010, a case was filed against Justice del Castillo on the basis that he directly quoted several authors who wrote on topics related to the case he was handling without proper citations. After proper proceedings, he was cleared for of the following reasons:

  1. The legal researcher accidentally deleted the proper citation
  2. Microsoft Word failed to supply a mechanism that will allow it to check for copy-pasted material
  3. There was no malicious intent to pass the work as his own

It is absolutely preposterous for the Supreme Court to have agreed to this faulty reasoning presented by del Castillo. First of all, it is unfair for the legal researcher to receive the blame for del Castillo negligence. A legal researcher provides information such as literature and other cases that could supplement the points made by del Castillo in his defense. If he puts the blame on the legal researcher then perhaps it is an implication that his legal researcher does everything for him. If he were diligent enough, he would have at least reviewed what his legal researcher did, if he was too busy to write his own ponencia.

The second argument is just pure ignorance on his part. Bill Gates might as well sue the Philippine court for (further) tainting the name of Microsoft. Microsoft Word is a word processor. It is a typewriter with aesthetic functions, so obviously it does not have plagiarism detecting features. Maybe the Supreme Court should invest in something like turnitin which actually does check for plagiarism.

Finally, there’s the issue of not intending to plagiarize. I can’t find a definitive source that is not a dictionary or university pamphlet that presents the dangers of plagiarism, but in general it is the lack of or wrongful attribution of an idea to the original source. When I was still in uni, the concept and consequences of plagiarism were always drilled into our heads. Plagiarism is not citing a source. Plagiarism is citing the source wrongfully. Plagiarism is citing the wrong source. Negligence is never an excuse, just as ignorance is never an excuse when it comes to the law.

Plagiarism is a major issue in intellectual integrity. It can stain your reputation. But now there is a Supreme Court Justice who gets out of the case scot free. This has implications on the intellectual and legal development of society.

Of course the most obvious implication is that on intellectual integrity. In clearing Justice del Castillo, the Supreme Court has opened the floodgates for more (student) appeals with regard to counts of plagiarism, wherein they could state that it was not their intent to plagiarize.

Another implication is that on future cases. One valid source of court decision is precedents. By principle, if a case has the same facts as another, a decision is valid based on the previous case.  Although plagiarism is not a legal concept, in the growing prominence of the knowledge economy could lead  to more cases of this nature. It makes fighting against plagiarism in the future a losing battle.

How does one prove intent? And does the lack of malicious intent remove the fact that the crime has been done? In a more extreme case, you accidentally drive into the wall of someone’s house causing the roof to collapse and heavy damage on the part of the house owner. Even if you did not mean to crash into the house, there is fault. Perhaps you were not focusing or you forgot to refill your brake fluid. It was an accident, but it was from one’s negligence. That is reckless imprudence.

Plagiarism should be taken seriously, especially in the case of Justice del Castillo, as he is in a position that expects moral conduct and integrity. If we allow people like that in such positions, what does that have to say about the society we live in.

At the end of the day, all you really own in the world is your integrity. Once you give that up, you don’t ever get it back.” – Julian Baker, One Tree Hill 8×04

To the Supreme Court, especially to you – Justice del Castillo, David Tennant does not approve.

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Hostage

Today, a tragedy has befallen a group of tourists in the Philippines. August 23, 2010 will forever mark the day when a suspended cop took hostage 22 tourists from Hong Kong. My sympathies go to those who have lost their loved ones.

I have so many things to say about the whole situation that I don’t know where to start. So I’ll just say this. No one wanted it to happen. I’m pretty sure Mendoza (the suspect and hostage taker) did not want it to end this way either. He wanted his job, ergo did not want to die. But everything went badly, and I think all events that happened prior to the bloodshed have contributed to it.

I think everyone, most importantly the police and the media persons, can learn something from what had happened today. For one, broadcast sensationalism of the whole situation has resulted in the increased tension between the hostage taker and the policemen. The first blow was when the policemen had taken in the brother as well as the interview of the parents. Perhaps the media thought that showing the family could soften his heart a bit, but I think if he was able to keep 15 innocent lives for hours, then they should’ve known that would not work.

Another thing is that they indeed did their “job” to let the people, which included the hostage taker, know EVERYTHING that is happening. So the hostage taker was well-aware of the actions being taken by the police. Of course this isn’t very smart for the media. But of course, media economics works that way. There is a demand, and therefore they supply it. It continues to feed the people’s addiction to wanting to know everything.

Sometimes I really believe the Filipino is addicted to gossip – 4 daily celebrity life shows (2 in ABS-CBN, 1 in TV5, 1 in GMA7, this is not considering the “Celebrity News” portion of the evening news programs), 5 Sunday celebrity oriented shows (Showbiz Central, The Buzz, Paparazzi, Sharon and Mel and Joey) and 2 Saturday celebrity news programs  (E-live and Startalk). I’d even go as far as saying “The Bottomline” of Boy Abunda fits in this category. I mean come on, who asks a bureaucrat about his sex life. No I don’t need to know that thank you.

I’ve drifted a bit. I’m just trying to say that the media would do whatever it takes to get information to people because they like saying they have the exclusive, even if it compromises police operations and the lives of those at risk in the scene. I read that one reporter sneaked from behind the police to get an interview with the brother of the hostage taker. I think the media should know when to draw the line. President Aquino is right in stating that there is freedom of the press. But there’s also such thing as prudence, which seemed to be poorly exercised today.

Of course the biggest government agency being hit with criticisms is the Philippine National Police. Even the SWAT could not redeem Philippine law enforcement. They say the PNP officers lack training. Sadly, it is quite true. The reputation of the PNP has been long tainted by corruption. Just recently, it was involved in the 21-M burger ordeal , the death of Ivan Padilla, and the torture video. Now this. They can’t catch a break can they?

But the lack of training is growing more and more obvious with every blunder they get themselves in. Although the lack of budget is a major factor as to why this has been happening, poor management is also at fault. Given that there is an already set budget at the start of the fiscal year, then the PNP officials should be able to allocate it properly to fund their activities rather than complaining that they don’t have enough. Money is like time. We never have enough yet we can do what we can to be efficient with it through proper allocation and management of what we have.

The hostage taker posted a note for all to read: “Big mistake to correct a big wrong decision.” This is an extremely flawed perspective of decision-making. Only in arithmetic do two negative entities ever surely result in a positive one. Two wrongs don’t make a right, but three lefts do. (unrelated but I like the play of words). There is nothing good in taking illegal and even extralegal measures in getting what you want.

Ultimately, I believe that this whole ordeal is a result of bad decision-making in the part of the media, the police, and of course the hostage taker. I think the biggest lesson that everyone can pick up from this whole… event.. is:

Killing won’t make people like you. It just makes them dead. – Voldemort (Joe Walker), A Very Potter Musical (It actually makes a lot of sense.)

FIFA, NBA, among other things

I have not left the house today. I blame the consecutive games that have been going on. This morning, I watched the NBA Lakers vs. Celtics finals. I wanted the Celtics to win, but I felt Kobe (take note, Kobe. Not the Lakers as a team) deserved this win, since he put most heart in it. At around lunch time, up until dinner time, I watched the two FIFA games, Germany vs. Serbia and Slovenia vs. USA. Hot guys. 🙂

Anyway, I was watching the news this afternoon (while I was taking a break between watching FIFA matches) and I was able to catch the news report on P.Noy’s advocacy for a 12-year education cycle, which will unfortunately cost the Philippines a staggering amount of 100B across 5 years (Link). Sadly, many educators and parents disagree with this proposal. Most of the reasons for disagreeing was first it was an additional cost for the parents, since even if public education would be funded by government, the costs of books, miscellaneous fees, uniforms, and allowances are not. Also, educators argued that there are not enough teachers and that there are other problems that should be solved first, such as teacher salaries and lack of teachers for the current 10 year curriculum.

Yet, I personally feel that the Philippines needs the 12 year curriculum. I graduated High School at the age of 15, and honestly I had issues as to what major I wanted to pursue. At 15, we are tasked to make one of the biggest decisions in our life, and that is our specialization. This eventually would lead to the career we would take up after we have finished our degrees. Tell me, when you were 15, how sure were you about what you wanted to do, or wanted to be. At 15, we want to explore, we want to know more, but at 15, we are automatically locked in the walls of our courses.

Starting first year colleges, most universities already box you into your specific field, which blocks us from scoping for what we really want to do. I was lucky enough to go to a university which does not automatically sort us into courses the moment we set foot in the university. When I first applied, I was set to take up Communications, but as I took up subjects during my two years of Liberal Arts such as Political Governance and Institutions, Philippine Society, Philippine History, Political Thought, I realized that my interest lies not in Communication, but in Political Economy. I was given the chance to choose my major after two years of Liberal Education. But not all students are given that opportunity.

And sure, you may be one of those who, since grade school, has already set their hearts on a specific major. Well good for you, but that’s not the case with many of the fresh graduates. At the age of 15, or 16, sometimes, that decision is something they are not ready to make. This is not to say that adding two more years into the curriculum would make them decide what major to take up, but it gives them more time to make that decision. Their interests will be revealed, and it would be a more well-thought of decision. In addition, their preparedness for college would be increased.

But adding 12 years to the curriculum is not merely on the maturity of the students who graduate from high school. In the United States as well as in other countries, basic education is already set in the 12 year curriculum. The quality of education can be said to be better, because not only do you have more time to teach subjects, you have time to teach more on that subject. There have been complaints by society that the output of the educational system of the Philippines is not as competent as that from other countries. If other countries have already adapted the 12 year model, what’s there to stop us?

They say it’s the budget. Well, in 2010, only 12% of the budget was allocated to education. Adding a good 20B to that amount would bring it up to 13.9, 14% of the budget. What is 2% of the budget?  If  the 13B supplemental budget for the automated elections was allocated in such a fast time, what more if the necessary 20B for education was allocated in the proper time, so as to account for the possible deficits. In addition, in Thailand, no less than 20% is allocated for public education spending. Why is it so hard for us to allocate 14%?

Anyway, that’s my take on the whole 12 year education cycle. I know some people don’t like it because they will be in school longer than expected, but quality is always better than quantity (cliche as it is).

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Tomorrow I embark on a mission and that is to start on my dream to be a published scholar, which will help me get a scholarship in the future. I hope I follow through this time. I call it Project: Be Published. At least now I am doing something with my life. I do really need to polish my writing skills now, since I haven’t really written anything serious aside from my thesis. So wish me luck!