More than one Ma’am Arlene? Then judiciary needs cleanup
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - October 14, 2013 - 12:00am

The investigation of Judiciary fixer “Ma’am Arlene” should lead to reforms in that branch of government. For, there apparently are at least four Ma’am Arlenes other than the one I exposed last Monday. And all of them, sources aver, fix major court cases by bribery.

One such Ma’am Arlene, an employee of a Manila court, uses her contacts with the judges there to swing big pecuniary cases. Another Ma’am Arlene, with the staff of a Court of Appeals justice, also loads rulings in favor of richly paying litigants.

Two of the Ma’am Arlenes have slightly different spellings. One is Ma’am Aileen, who meddles even in marital disputes in Metro Manila. The other, Ma’am Erline, supposedly is more insidious because of her former role in Malacañang. While there, she had access to rosters of nominees to the Judiciary, periodically submitted to the President by the Judicial and Bar Council. She and her husband would meet with each nominee to the Metro Manila or Appellate Courts, to “size them up”; that is, find out how far they’d go to be appointed. When an appointment paper comes out, she and husband would photocopy the document and, again meeting with the appointee, make it known that he owes them a debt of gratitude. Such debt was and still is collected in the form of rulings favoring the couple’s “clients”.

If there are five court fixers named or sounding like Ma’am Arlene, then there could be, judging by the number of letters in the alphabet, many others. There should be no room in the Judiciary for such corruptors of justice.

When I wrote about Ma’am Arlene last Monday, I had no inkling it would expose others like her. The Ma’am Arlene I mentioned specializes in fixing big corporate cases in the Court of Appeals and regional trial courts in Manila and other major cities. She throws birthday bashes for magistrates, gifts their spouses with signature brands, and bankrolls their family junkets to Hong Kong and Macau. All this, in exchange for decisions favoring her litigant-clients. One such client allegedly is a flour smuggler.

I referred to Ma’am Arlene as “the Judiciary’s Napoles” because of similarities with alleged Legislature fixer Janet Lim Napoles. The latter recently was exposed as facilitator of senators and congressmen’s pork barrels to bogus NGOs. The legislators pocketed half of the multimillion-peso “pork” they assigned to her – the kickbacks totaling P6.2 billion in 2007-2009 alone. Napoles paid for parties for the lawmakers, and gifted them with name-engraved expensive pens. Photos of Napoles and family members with lawmakers have been circulating on the Internet.

Ma’am Arlene’s photos too are now going around the social media. Like Napoles, she is not a lawyer, but apparently can do business with bigwigs from the Bench.

Ma’am Arlene’s influence allegedly extends beyond the courts to the Dept. of Justice and the Office of the Ombudsman. She has friends among the prosecutors and field investigators of the two agencies.

In reaction, Supreme Court administrator Midas Marquez wrote to assure me that his office has long been investigating Ma’am Arlene. A subsequent report by The STAR’s Edu Punay quoted him as having “uncovered three Ma’am Arlenes in the Judiciary: a clerk from the Court of Appeals, a former employee at the Manila regional trial court, and a Manila city hall employee.” Marquez did not tell Punay or me when his investigation would end, but asked for helpful information.

Sources said Marquez would do well to interrogate his own deputies about Ma’am Arlene. The fixer allegedly has a powerful magistrate for a boyfriend. She also was said to have influenced last week’s election of officers of the Philippine Judges Association. In the PJA conference in Bacolod last year, Ma’am Arlene was at one point seated at the head table. Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno arrived later as keynote speaker. In another recent judges’ convention in Cebu, Ma’am Arlene reportedly made it known to attendees that she had bankrolled the food and drinks.

Marquez tried to belittle Ma’am Arlene as “paling in comparison to Napoles.” He told Punay: “In Napoles we’re talking about P10 billion in public funds. This case of Ma’am Arlene is simple graft and corruption, which of course should be investigated and prosecuted.”

The Judiciary long has been accused of corruption and ineptness. Last year Renato Corona was deposed as Chief Justice for hidden wealth: millions of dollars and several plush condos. Marquez was his appointee. STAR columnist Elfren S. Cruz stated last weekend that Marquez holds supervision over 2,000 justices and judges of third-level courts, and 27,000 court personnel.

Chief Justice Sereno recently called on whistleblowers to come forward to identify court fixers. In a forum of the Philippine Bar Association, she appealed to lawyers to help in gathering evidence against “scalawags in purple robes, and the unscrupulous members of our (law) profession.”

In the wake of the exposure of Napoles and Ma’am Arlene as corruptors of the Legislature, the Executive, and the Judiciary, people are calling for sweeping reforms. Such reforms can begin with insulating Judiciary nominees and appointees from fixers.

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