NBI ready to probe judiciary’s ‘Ma’am Arlene’–De Lima
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Sunday said the National Bureau of Investigation was ready to help investigate reports of a certain “Ma’am Arlene,” said to be a “decision broker” in the judiciary—if asked to do so by the Supreme Court.
De Lima’s statement came as the Office of the Court Administrator under Midas Marquez launched an investigation into reports the recent election of officers of the Philippine Judges Association (PJA) was marred by vote buying instigated by a lobbyist known as “Ma’am Arlene.”
A lawyer, who is active in court but who declined to be named due to the sensitive nature of the matter, said that “Maam Arlene” was not working alone but was part of a “network of decision brokers” that included magistrates.
Reports have dubbed her the “Napoles of the judiciary,” referring to Janet Lim-Napoles who is the suspected mastermind of the P10-billion corruption scam involving legislative pork barrel funds.
“Ma’am Arlene” is rumored to be footing the bills for conferences and junkets abroad by members of the judiciary, among other favors.
In a text message to reporters, De Lima, who is on top of the ongoing investigation into the pork barrel scam, said she supported “in principle” any investigation into corruption in the judiciary.
She said that if the Supreme Court sought the help of the Department of Justice or the NBI in the investigation, “then we’ll gladly undertake yet another important assignment.”
“But at this point, I would not want to preempt any move or initiative that the leadership of the judiciary, a separate and coequal branch, would deem proper to undertake relative to those allegations of a ‘Napoles’ in the judiciary,’” De Lima said.
Last week, Marquez, who is leading the investigation of the reports, said he had asked three judges who vied for the leadership of the PJA to explain allegations of irregularities during the recently concluded elections.
Asked to comment were the three PJA presidential aspirants, Judge Ralph Lee of Quezon City (who won the presidency), Judge Rommel Baybay of Makati City and Judge Felix Reyes of Marikina City.
Marquez had also said his office was looking at three individuals named “Arlene” and would ask for their side of the story as well. He declined to name the individuals.
But the lawyer who spoke to the Inquirer said the network that “Ma’am Arlene” was part of was “responsible for why the justice system is not working.”
The lawyer described the network as a group of “decision brokers,” said to be in existence for two decades now, whose members “broker justice in exchange for a fee.”
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