After years of looking at students’ essays and papers, University of the Philippines history professor Ma. Serena Diokno’s radar for cheats has sharpened.
“One time, I caught a student who translated [an original material] from English to Filipino. Nahuli ko. Matalas ang radar ko diyan (My radar is very sensitive about these things),” Diokno told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
“For instance I have an essay exam and the answer sounds like somebody else wrote it. I say ah, wait a minute, this was lifted from a book. There’s a radar. I’ve never failed,” said Diokno, chairperson of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP).
Long considered taboo in the academe, plagiarism and other forms of intellectual dishonesty remain some of the worst offenses any student can commit in school. Getting caught can sometimes mean being stripped of one’s degrees and academic titles.
The offense, which of late has brought public shame to a prize-winning writer, a magistrate, and one of the country’s richest businessman, is covered by strict policy in both private and public schools, and usually carries the extreme sanction of expulsion.
“We have had cases where we’ve expelled students. There’s one student we stripped of a PhD,” Diokno said.
The student copied “whole chunks from a journal in the 19th century” which keen-eyed UP professors discovered, Diokno said. UP’s code of student conduct has stringent provisions against intellectual dishonesty, particularly the act of claiming the work of another.
At the Ateneo de Manila University, officials reissued its plagiarism policy last year after the Supreme Court issued its decision on a case filed against Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo. The justice was cleared of allegations that he had used copied material in his controversial ruling on a claims case filed against Japan by Filipino women used as sex slaves during World War II.
The Ateneo had found itself embroiled in a plagiarism issue just months before, when its graduation speaker, top businessman Manuel Pangilinan, used in his speech passages from speeches made by United States President Barack Obama, media mogul Oprah Winfrey and billionaire author JK Rowling.
In a memorandum posted on its official website, the Ateneo reiterated its policy for all Loyola schools, saying the institution “takes very seriously all cases of academic dishonesty including acts of plagiarism.”
“As articulated in the Loyola Schools Code of Academic Integrity (A Student Guide), the objective act of “plagiarism is identified not through intent but through the act itself. The objective act of falsely attributing to one’s self what is not one’s work, whether intentional or out of neglect, is sufficient to conclude that plagiarism has occured. Students who plead ignorance or appeal to lack of malice are not excused,” read the memo dated Nov. 4, 2010.
The De La Salle University also considers “plagiarism and other forms of intellectual dishonesty” a major offense.
While universities enforce their respective rules on plagiarism, the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) also implements rules against all forms of dishonesty and cheating in school.
“The guidelines depend on the particular institutions but under our manual of regulations, that falls under misconduct. There is no direct regulation on plagiarism but one that covers dishonesty,” said CHEd Executive Director Julito Vitriolo.
The official said cases of dishonesty could fall under the offense of grave misconduct and may be punishable by suspension, dismissal or dropping from the rolls.
Cases are usually settled in universities but cases of expulsion are deliberated on by CHEd, Vitriolo said.
“If the decision of the university is expulsion, it will need the approval of CHEd,” he explained.
The Department of Education (DepEd) has a 1989 memorandum covering dishonesty in public schools, but the typewritten copy the Inquirer found was barely readable, its print having faded away.
DepEd Assistant Secretary for Legal and Legislative Affairs Tonisito Umali however said plagiarism is considered a “very serious offense” that would merit a failing grade at the minimum.
“Always, when students write school papers, they are taught rules on copyright and the concept of plagiarism,” Umali said.
For Diokno, clear instruction on rules governing plagiarism is key in helping students avoid the offense.
“It’s harder now [to resist] because with the Internet, the tendency [of students] is to download materials. So what I do explain? In my classes, I explain the rules, I tell them that once they are caught, charges will be filed,” Diokno said.
“You are entitled, of course, to your own defense, but if it’s plagiarism, It’s really an open shot. You show what you wrote, you see the original, what’s your defense there?” she said.