NBI to conduct parallel probe on ‘Ma’am Arlene’-A A +A
Monday, October 14, 2013
CHIEF Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Monday asked Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to help the judiciary in probing corruption among justices, judges and court personnel, particularly in the case of alleged influence-peddler “Ma’am Arlene.”
“Maam Arlene” was said to be the counterpart of alleged pork barrel scam architect Janet Napoles in the judiciary even if the issue does not involve misuse of public funds.
De Lima said she instructed the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), an attached agency of the Department of Justice (DOJ), to verify the identity of “Ma’am Arlene,” who allegedly threw parties and showered gifts to justices and judges in exchange for favorable rulings on behalf of her clients.
Her identity has yet to be known although Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez said she can be a clerk from the Court of Appeals, a former employee of the Manila Regional Trial Court and a known contact from Manila City Hall. Marquez’s office is also investigating the issue, which came out in a newspaper column.
“The Chief Justice still wants the NBI to do the investigation because the judiciary has no investigators,” said de Lima, who met with Sereno after the latter learned of her willingness to look into the alleged corruption in the judicial system.
In a statement, Sereno said she asked the DOJ to determine possible violation of applicable criminal provisions in the recently-concluded election of the Philippine Judges Association (PJA), where “Ma’am Arlene” supposedly used her clout in the selection process.
Sereno also wanted to get the identity of private persons who appear to have “unlawfully influenced specific members of the judiciary in the outcome of specific cases, which facts may crop up in the course of investigation.”
De Lima already has the name of a suspected “Ma’am Arlene” but declined to disclose this to reporters pending “preliminary verification” by the NBI.
“It’s supposed to be a very professional organization and therefore, they are supposed to be immune, theoretically, from these foul tactics but it seems it did not happen,” said de Lima, adding she has not heard of “Ma’am Arlene” operating in her department and in the Office of the Ombudsman.
Judge Ralph Lee of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, who won the presidency, and fellow candidates Judge Rommel Baybay (Makati) and Judge Felix Reyes (Makati) were already ordered to comment on the controversy.
Sereno and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales also initiated talks on making use of the technical capability and mandate of the Ombudsman to conduct lifestyle checks on the members of the judiciary and court personnel.
Covered by the planned lifestyle scrutiny were justices of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Court of Tax Appeals and the Sandiganbayan and all lower courts. (Sunnex)