Tams – Letter to Supreme CourtMANILA, Philippines—The third of the foreign legal authorities whose works were plagiarized by Supreme Court Justice Mariano del Castillo has written the tribunal to officially express his “concern.”
In a letter addressed to the court en banc, Christian J. Tams, a professor of international law at the University of Glasgow, expressed concern over “the use of one of my publications” in the Vinuya case (GR No. 162230).
In Vinuya et al vs the Executive Secretary, the Filipino women who were turned into sex slaves by Japanese soldiers during World War II wanted to force the Philippine government to demand from Japan an apology and compensation for the atrocities. The Supreme Court denied their petition.
In denying the petition of the Filipino “comfort women,” the Supreme Court, in a decision written by Justice Del Castillo, used arguments that, it turned out, were copied without attribution from the works of three foreign legal experts.
Newsbreak reported that Del Castillo lifted quotes and footnotes from:
“A Fiduciary Theory of Jus Cogens” by Ivan Criddle and Evan Fox-Descent, published last year in the Yale Journal of International Law.
“Breaking the Silence on Rape as an International Crime” by Mark Ellis, published 2006 in the Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law.
“Enforcing Erga Omnes Obligations in International Law” by Christian Tams, published in 2005.
Del Castillo plagiarized 31 parts of Criddle and Fox-Descent’s article; 24 of Ellis’s; and 4 of Tams’s.
Criddle and Ellis had written the Philippine Supreme Court separately over the incident.
In his letter dated August 18, Tams said sentences on page 30 of the decision were “taken almost word by word from the introductory chapter of my book, Enforcing Obligations Erga Omnes in International Law (Cambridge University Press 2005).”
Tams noted that “there is a generic reference to my work in footnote 69 of the Judgment, but as this is in relation to a citation from another author (Bruno Simma) rather than with respect to the substantive passages reproduced in the Judgment, I do not think it can be considered an appropriate form of referencing.”
The letter has an annex showing a comparison of the passages from Tams’ book and the Supreme Court’s decision, which Newsbreak published earlier.
“I am particularly concerned that my work should have been used to support the Judgment’s cautious approach to the erga omnes concept. In fact, a most cursory reading shows that my book’s central thesis is precisely the opposite: namely that the erga omnes concept has been widely accepted and has a firm place in contemporary international law,” Tams continued.
“With due respect to your Honourable Court, I am at a loss to see how my work should have been cited to support—as it seemingly has—the opposite approach. More generally, I am concerned at the way in which your Honourable Court’s judgment has drawn on scholarly work without properly acknowledging it,” the professor continued.
Tams ended his letter by saying he would “appreciate a prompt response” from the court on the matter.
This act of plagiarism has been strongly criticized by professor and students of law in the Philippines. Some quarters have even called on Del Castillo to resign.
The Supreme Court has formed an ethics committee to investigate the matter. (Newsbreak)