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Carpio-Morales: ‘Strong as a mountain mule’



Although I have worked with Justice Chit [Conchita Carpio-Morales] for just a few years, it has been easy to be her friend because, contrary to some misimpressions about her, she is an intensely warm person, affectionate, and sincere to the core.

SC Associate Justice Conchita Carpio Morales

SC Associate Justice Conchita Carpio Morales

She is a paradox. Her tongue is sharp but her actions are kind; she is outwardly severe but inwardly sentimental.

Justice Chit’s father, Lucas Carpio, was a Court of First Instance judge. Her mom, Maria Claudio, was a home economics teacher. It seems that Justice Chit got her passion for the law from her father and her skills in homemaking from her mom.

When not writing decisions, she does garden work, raising rare plants and flowers. She also collects beautiful if inexpensive paintings and antiques. She sometimes dabbles in painting. And she is famous for her pasta dishes.

Justice Chit grew up in Paoay, Ilocos Norte. She graduated valedictorian in both elementary and high school. She is a true daughter of Ilocos. This is the reason I easily identify with her. My Dad is a hundred percent Ilocano.

Unfortunately, Justice Chit has not been true to one deeply valued Ilocano trait. She is not kuripot. From what I learned, she is, I am ashamed to say as an Ilocano, quite generous—to her family, to her friends, and to the needy. And she loves her staff, treating them often and bringing them pasalubong from her travels. Justice Chit, how can you disregard our precious Ilocano kuripot heritage?

After high school, Justice Chit went to the University of the Philippines and got a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics. From there, it seemed natural for her to take up law, following a family tradition. Her father, several uncles, and three siblings are lawyers.

Gifted with excellent genes, a good head on her shoulders, and perseverance, she pursued the study of law at UP, which has an excellent law school I am willing to concede, next to Ateneo.

Later, her alma mater would recognize the honors Justice Chit has brought to it. In 2008, during the Centennary celebration of UP, the UP Alumni Association honored Justice Chit “for delivering justice with courage and untrammeled integrity” and for serving as “a shining paragon to all magistrates, worthy of emulation and respect.”

Justice Chit’s career path prepared her for the Supreme Court. She initially practiced law with the Atienza Tabora Del Rosario Law Offices in Ermita, Manila. From there, she joined the Department of Justice, becoming Special Assistant, to Secretary Vicente Abad-Santos and Undersecretaries Catalino Macaraig, Jr. and Jesus Borromeo. She later served as Senior State Counsel.

Because of her father’s incessant prodding, Justice Chit sought to join the judiciary. But it was not easy.

After some failed efforts, a friend lent her a novena and encouraged her

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to pray it. She did. Months later, in April 1983, President Marcos appointed her RTC Judge of Pili, Camarines Sur. It was not a coincidence that the novena she had been praying was for the Virgin of Penafrancia, whose feast is annually celebrated in Camarines Sur.

On November 4, 1986, President Corazon Aquino appointed Justice Chit Pasay City RTC Judge, becoming the Executive Judge until 1994 when President Fidel Ramos appointed her to the Court of Appeals.

In 2002, impressed by her sterling record, the JBC [Judicial and Bar Council] unanimously endorsed her for the Supreme Court and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, her admirer, appointed her to the high court.

As Supreme Court Justice, Justice Chit worked more than she was paid for.

On a typical working day, she would arrive at the office around 6:30 a.m. or almost always before 7:00 a.m. She had no idle moments. Her output speaks best of her diligence. She has in 8 years and 10 months, penned more than 900 full-length decisions and a great assortment of outstanding concurring and dissenting opinions. She leaves the court with a zero backlog. Justice Chit! You set such a very high standard for ordinary plodders like me. You put us to shame.

Seriously, Justice Chit is a lady magistrate of great courage.

Dissenting from the majority views is a habit with her. Her celebrated dissents include La Bugal B’Laan Tribal Association v. Ramos, where she voted to declare certain provisions of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 on financial or technical assistance agreements unconstitutional. Another is Biraogo v. The Philippine Truth Commission where she voted with the minority to uphold the constitutionality of the creation of the Truth Commission. She is famous for her frank dissent in Cocofed v. Republic where she voted against the conversion of sequestered San Miguel Corporation shares into preferred shares.

Justice Chit fears only God, no one and nothing else.

As a child, she would climb the steep and shaky stairwell of the Paoay Church belfry to the consternation of her parents. I am told that courage is a trait common to Carpio women. The girls are taught from childhood to be independent, to fend for themselves, whatever others may say. They go where they please, honest in their intentions and trusting in their abilities.

In fact, in her recent sabbatical leave, Justice Chit went to Hungary, Slovania, Croatia, and Austria on her own. She was always of the belief that if you can read and write, you will never get lost. In contrast, Justice Bersamin cannot travel out of town or abroad without his wife. Well, for another reason, according to Justice Peralta.

So when I hear people say that Justice Chit just follows Justice Carpio’s vote in the Court, I am simply outraged.

Our Justices, like their equivalent in the United States Supreme Court, simply tend to group into schools of thoughts, the liberals or the activists versus the conservatives.

Justice Chit, like Justice Carpio and lately Justice Sereno, simply tends more to challenge the status quo. Their philosophies favor change, which explain their frequently common stand.

I can attest that Justice Chit has a mind of her own. Actually, I suspect that most of the time it is Justice Carpio who follows her vote.

I do not know, Justice Chit, if I should talk about your life of retirement or your next job.

Well, may I just say a few things about both? Life after retirement should not be dreary. It is up to you to focus on having a well-earned fun. Plan to have more time with your newborn grandson, Ennio, and enjoy the desserts of life.

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Life does not end until it ends.

Retirement is the time to reminisce. No doubt you will meet your retired friends more often to talk about what you did in your younger days and discuss the wonders that vitamins and herbs could do to the body.

It will be time for you to visit the old places, savor the memories, and bury the regrets. At retirement, you will see everything from the top of the mountain. It should be fun.

And should you be asked to serve as Ombudsman, well, good luck to the forces of evil!

They do not know that at 70 you are as strong as a mountain mule. Your honesty will of course be your greatest capital. For you can preach honesty because you are honest. Still we will have to pray for you if you become the Ombudsman for you will need God at your side.

Justice Chit, you are a friend as friends should be: loyal, honest, and possessed of a keen sense of humor. We in the court blissfully enjoyed your company. God bless you!


Supreme Court associate justice Roberto Abad, appointed to the Court in 2009, delivered this speech on the occasion of the retirement program for Justice Conchita Carpio Morales of the Supreme Court at the Sofitel Hotel, Pasay City, on June 17, 2011. Retired justice Carpio-Morales is one of the nominees to the position of Ombudsman.

CATEGORY: Commentary, Institutions, Justice System, The Judiciary
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  1. Johnny Lin says:

    Thank God, it was retirement not a eulogy. Whew! May the Divine Lord Bless you both, Justices Abad and Carpio-Morales.

  2. very nice.

  3. G. Samson says:

    Your Honor: after serving the Phil Gov’t for many decades you now deserved to retire for good, and enjoy life up to fullest with your children and apos. Life is to short and why are you still looking for a stressful new undertakings. Nobody knows where our present gov’t will lead us as it seems Pres. Pnoy gov’t has no directions for the 94M Filipinos.

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