4 judges probed for ‘Ma’am Arlene’ links
MANILA, Philippines–The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the investigation of four regional trial court (RTC) judges in connection with the controversial “Ma’am Arlene,” a woman whose supposed influence with magistrates has been likened to that of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles’ close relations with lawmakers.
In an en banc resolution dated July 22 and released only on Thursday, the high court ordered the Court of Appeals to further investigate Makati RTC Branch 132 Judge Rommel Baybay, Quezon City RTC Branch 83 Judge Ralph Lee, Manila RTC Branch 24 Judge Lyliha Aquino and recently dismissed Biñan RTC Branch 24 Judge Marino Rubia.
The high court recently ordered Rubia’s dismissal for grave misconduct in a separate case, where he was found to have shown partiality for an opposing party and to have sought private meetings with a litigant.
It said Rubia had “failed to act in a manner that upholds the dignity mandated by his office,” and ordered that the judge be meted with “the corresponding forfeiture of all retirement benefits, except accrued leave credits, and disqualified from reinstatement or appointment in any public office, including government-owned or -controlled corporations.”
The Supreme Court initiated the probe on the four judges in light of initial “findings of violations of our laws and rules” covering the conduct of the election of officers of the Philippine Judges Association (PJA) in October, read the en banc resolution released Thursday through a notice signed by Clerk of Court Enriqueta Vidal.
This separate probe was prompted by an initial report submitted by an investigating committee chaired by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, with retired Associate Justices Ma. Alicia Austria-Martinez and Romeo J. Callejo Sr. as members. The report was not released given the confidential nature of the probe.
The high court had initiated the “Ma’am Arlene” probe after revelations that a newspaper columnist made last year about the woman who apparently wielded influence over appellate and lower-court judges in exchange for financing their lavish parties and travels.
Leonen’s committee invited last March a certain Arlene Angeles Lerma in connection with the investigation, but the woman reportedly had left the country without a return ticket.
In its resolution last week, the high court ordered the Court of Appeals to assign the investigation to one associate justice each through a raffle, giving the investigating magistrates 90 days to look into the case and make recommendations.
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