SC warns against undue haste in 'Ma'am Arlene' probe

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday, December 13, warned against undue haste in an ongoing committee probe identifying an alleged big-time fixer in the judiciary – casually called Ma'am Arlene.

The statement comes on the day a photo of a certain Arlene Angeles Lerma was released in 3 of the country's broadsheets.

"A photograph memorializes a moment. It may speak some truth but it may not be all of it. The proper context therefore must be understood and proven," said the SC in a statement.

The High Court assured the public that a heap of evidence, information and tips from both official and unofficial sources is already in the hands of the committee tasked to conduct  the investigation.

The committee is chaired by Associate Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen with retired Associate Justices Alicia Austria-Martinez and Romeo Callejo Sr. Its creation was prompted by persistent reports about bribery among judges and justices.

It has previously announced a closed-door policy, where identities of resource persons summoned in its almost-weekly meetings are kept confidential. 

Among the identities disclosed by the Court, however, were Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez, Deputy Court Administrators Raul B. Villanueva and Jenny Lind A. Delorino.

Pending the release of a formal report by the Leonen committee, it has decided not to "unduly publicize" documents and photographs pertinent to the investigation to avoid trial by publicity.

The report will be released on or before April 2014, the SC said.

"An integral part of the Committee’s responsibility is to ensure that those who are innocent are shielded from undue and unwarranted prejudice even as it ensures those who are liable are identified and the proper recommendations for their sanction are made to the Court en banc," the SC added.

The photograph, it added, is just "one of many documents and pieces of information that the Committee is carefully considering."

"But determining the truth is often not achieved by a mad rush," it said. "It is best achieved by a sober, clear, complete and independent look at the entire context." –