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After Ma’am Jenny, it’s Ma’am Arlene

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The Office of the Court Administrator has initiated an investigation into reports that a woman that goes by the name “Ma’am Arlene” is allegedly fixing cases in the courts on behalf of her wealthy clients.

 

The woman is being described as the Supreme Court’s own version of Janet Napoles, the businesswoman linked in the pork barrel scam.

Malacañang, for its part, supports the court’s investigation with Deputy Presidential Spokeswoman Abigail Valte saying they would let the judiciary handle the matter for now.

“At this point, they have not asked for any assistance yet. It is really the Office of the Court Administrator that is tasked to conduct investigations of this nature,” Valte said in a media interview.

“There have been several columns detailing a similar figure that is allegedly operating in the judiciary,” Valte said. “It’s only proper that the judiciary is the one that conduct its own investigation,” she added.

Meanwhile, Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez said the reported corruption in the judiciary perpetrated by the said “Ma’am Arlene” could not be compared to the alleged P10 billion in pork barrel scam of Napoles,

“It’s nothing compared to Napoles, so it’s an exaggeration to compare them. In Napoles, we are talking of about P10 billion in public funds. This case of ‘Ma’am Arlene’ is a very simple graft and corruption, which of course should be investigated and prosecuted,” Marquez said.

According to Marquez, the investigation into the reported graft and corruption activities of “Ma’am Arlene” in the trial courts and the Court of Appeals started in early September when one columnist of a daily newspaper came out with an article on the issue.

Based on that article, Marquez said, his office started a discreet probe.

“Then two more articles from two columnists of two different newspapers came out with the same article on the issue.  By this time, my office has already started its probe and we have identified at least three persons known as ‘Ma’am Arlene’,” he said.

For lack of sufficient evidence, Marquez refused to reveal the complete names of the three persons pointed to as “Ma’am Arlene.”

But he said initial investigations reveal that the three persons tagged as “Ma’am Arlene” point to a Clerk IV from the Court of Appeals, a former Malacanang official, and former employee of a ranking official of the Manila City Hall.

Coincidentally, he said, the column articles on “Ma’am Arlene” came out before the election of the officers of the Philippine Judges Association (PJA) held last Wednesday.

Sources said that PJA election is almost always hotly contested “because its leaders wield great influence over the more than 2,000 trial court judges in the country and the position of president is a stepping stone to promotion.”

“Apparently, there is one candidate accused of being supported by a certain ’Ma’am Arlene’ who is said to wield influence in the courts. So it started as a smear campaign against someone aspiring for the presidency of the PJA until it was blown out of proportion,” Marquez said.

Quezon City regional trial court (RTC) Judge Ralph Lee was elected PJA president last Wednesday.  He defeated Makati City RTC Judge Rommel Baybay and Marikina City RTC Judge Felix Reyes.

According to Marquez, he had earlier asked the three PJA presidential candidates to comment on the issue of “Ma’am Arlene” until Monday next week.

The “Ma’am Arlene” controversy was the subject matter of Marquez’s closing remark during the PJA election last Wednesday.

“The recent derogatory reports are very unfortunate. It comes at a time when the judiciary could have risen above the Executive and Legislative departments which are now embroiled in the PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) and DAP (Discretionary Acceleration Program) of Napoles.  Just because of this recent election, even the entire judiciary now has gone down together with the Executive and Legislative. I will not allow this to happen again. Not under my watch,” Marquez said.

“We in the OCA (Office of the Court Administrator headed by Marquez) intends to work closely with the PJA and all judges to institute meaningful reforms, not only on how to expedite the resolution of cases, but also in the conduct of elections,” he said.

“We just cannot go on like this. You are judges, you are not politicians.  Let us be good examples to our younger judges in the 1st level courts, and even to the lawyers practicing before our courts,”added Marquez.

Earlier, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno had mobilized the country’s lawyers to expose cases of bribery and corruption involving members of the judiciary who have been labeled as “hoodlums in robes.”

In a speech during the oath-taking of the new officers of Philippine Bar Association (PBA) late last month, Sereno said: “I assure you that if the cases filed are serious and supported by evidence, the justices of the Supreme Court will see to it that the axe will fall on whoever deserves it, even if it falls close to us.

“The image of the judiciary will probably temporarily suffer with the filing of these cases, but in the long run, a cleaning of the house will help lead to the gold standard status that we want for the judiciary.”

The Chief Justice said that lawyers who expose bribery and corruption may be spared from the disciplinary sanction of disbarment or other administrative liability.

But as to the lawyers’ criminal liability, “perhaps the Supreme Court can discuss with the Ombudsman the possibility of naming the whistleblowers as state witnesses and giving them immunity,” she said.

“It is seldom that a lawyer comes up to the Supreme Court, armed with evidence to kick these culprits out of the bench and bar,” she said.

However, she pointed out that her office have been receiving letters “accusing this or that judge of corruption and bias as shown by his supposed unjust decisions or rulings” but “none of them have shown that money passed hands.”

“With the sufficient talent and resources available to your organization, I think you can be more successful in identifying and gathering evidence against scalawags in purple robes and the unscrupulous members of our profession,” she challenged the PBA members. (With reports from Genalyn Kabiling) Manila Bulletin

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