March 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Legal and Judicial Ethics

Here are selected March 2011 rulings of the Philippine Supreme Court on legal and judicial ethics:

Administrative Cases Initiated by Supreme Court; procedure.   Respondent law professors asked for alternative reliefs should the Court find their Compliance unsatisfactory, that is, that the Show Cause Resolution be set for hearing and for that purpose, they be allowed to require the production or presentation of witnesses and evidence bearing on the plagiarism and misrepresentation issues in the Vinuya case (G.R. No. 162230) and the plagiarism case against Justice Del Castillo (A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC) and to have access to the records of, and evidence that were presented or may be presented in the ethics case against Justice Del Castillo.  It should be clarified that this is not an indirect contempt proceeding and Rule 71 (which requires a hearing) has no application to this case.  As explicitly ordered in the Show Cause Resolution this case was docketed as an administrative matter.  The rule that is relevant to this controversy is Rule 139-B, Section 13, on disciplinary proceedings initiated motu proprio by the Supreme Court, to wit:

SEC. 13. Supreme Court Investigators.—In proceedings initiated motu proprio by the Supreme Court or in other proceedings when the interest of justice so requires, the Supreme Court may refer the case for investigation to the Solicitor General or to any officer of the Supreme Court or judge of a lower court, in which case the investigation shall proceed in the same manner provided in sections 6 to 11 hereof, save that the review of the report of investigation shall be conducted directly by the Supreme Court.

From the foregoing provision, it cannot be denied that a formal investigation, through a referral to the specified officers, is merely discretionary, not mandatory on the Court.  Furthermore, it is only if the Court deems such an investigation necessary that the procedure in Sections 6 to 11 of Rule 139-A will be followed.  As respondent professors are fully aware, in general, administrative proceedings do not require a trial type hearing.  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, March 8, 2011.

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