The Supreme Court committee investigating judicial corruption on Friday said it was still in the process of evaluating the many documents, photographs, tips and other information that it has received from official and unofficial sources concerning the activities of an alleged “decision-broker” in the judiciary.
“The committee has taken care not to unduly publicize these documents (including photographs) until it can release its formal report because of the very high possibility that the proper context could not be ascribed,” the committee, chaired by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, said in a statement issued through Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te on Friday.
It said the picture published by the Inquirer on Friday showing the alleged fixer, Arlene Angeles Lerma, at the retirement party of a court official last year, was just one of the many documents and pieces of information that the committee was “carefully considering.”
“The photograph that has been prominently displayed in three broadsheets is but one of many documents and pieces of information that the committee is carefully considering,” the statement said.
Photo not sufficient
But the committee clarified that a photograph alone is not enough to determine whether someone is guilty or innocent.
“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,” it said.
“[D]etermining the truth is often not achieved by a mad rush based on incomplete pictures, suggestive images or unsubstantiated contexts. It is best achieved by a sober, clear, complete and independent look at the entire context. This is what the committee has committed to do,” it added.
Appreciates media interest
The committee said it appreciated the public and media interest in these allegations of judicial corruption.
But it explained that part of its responsibility is to determine which information is reliable and credible and, in the process, arrive at a “clear understanding” of the truth of news reports regarding judicial corruption at the instance of nonjudiciary members.
“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,” it said.
It said that it remained confident that the media would be able to find the right balance between the public’s need for information and the necessity for the committee to do its job effectively and efficiently.
Inquirer columnist Ramon Tulfo was one of the first journalists to expose the activities of a certain “Arlene L.” in the judiciary which was brought to light while the country was buzzing with the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
The committee asked for patience as it continues its probe, adding that it had committed to the Supreme Court en banc to submit a preliminary report within six months or earlier from the time the body was created.
It said it has been meeting almost every week since it was set up, and has invited many resource persons, including Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez and his deputies Raul Villanueva and Jenny Lind Delorino.
The other members of the committee are retired Supreme Court justices Alicia Austria-Martinez and Romeo Callejo Sr.
Malacañang on Friday said it was supporting the investigation of the alleged influence-peddling activities of a certain Arlene Angeles Lerma in the judiciary.
“The Executive, through the National Bureau of Investigation, is participating and is assisting,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte told a Palace briefing on Friday.
Payoffs to judges, justices
She said the Palace was supporting all the investigations. The Leonen committee, Marquez and the NBI have launched separate investigations into the activities of Lerma who is alleged to have influenced court decisions in favor of her clients through huge payoffs to judges and justices.
Valte said it would be for the investigators to ascertain if the Lerma shown in the photograph was the same “Ma’am Arlene” that had earlier been reported to be allegedly bribing judges and justices into issuing rulings favorable to her or her clients.
Newspaper columnists, including the Inquirer’s Tulfo, have written about a certain “Arlene L.” linked to the fixing of high-profile cases in the courts, including the Court of Appeals.
Tulfo had written that Arlene L. was known for her “high connections in the judiciary and her high-flying lifestyle, often seen sporting ultra-expensive signature handbags like Hermès.”
She has been likened to Janet Lim-Napoles, the detained businesswoman who allegedly masterminded the channeling of P10-billion worth of pork barrel funds into kickbacks to certain senators and House members over a period of 10 years.
Napoles, along with Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon Revilla Jr. and Juan Ponce Enrile and 34 others, has been named in a plunder complaint in the Ombudsman.With a report from TJ Burgonio.