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Why has it become acceptable for public servants to own mansions?

By NEWSBREAK

By CONCHITA CARPIO-MORALES
Retired Supreme Court Justice

MANILA, Philippines—The Supreme Court is not a good place to retire because by the time you retire everybody knows you are already turning 70.

SC Associate Justice Conchita Carpio Morales

Retired SC associate justice Conchita Carpio Morales

I find consolation, however, in what Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. stated that “to be seventy years young is sometimes far more cheerful and hopeful than to be forty years old.” So bring it on, as the night is also still young.

“You know you are getting old,” Bob Hope quipped, “when the [birthday] candles cost more than the [birthday] cake.” That is why I scrapped the birthday candles and am reserving them on my 75th.

Levity aside, I feel richly blessed with your presence tonight. You all have left an indelible mark in the pages of my life, which book I have been unfolding for the past 70 years.

German philosopher Schopenhauer commented that “[t]he first forty (40) years of our life give the text, the next thirty (30) furnish the commentary upon it, which enables us rightly to understand the true meaning and connection of the text with its moral and its beauties.”

Indeed, tonight’s affair is a celebration of the text and the commentary: those that have already been written down and those that are yet to be inscribed. The best is yet to come.

Looking back at the chronicles of previous generations, one cannot ignore the importance of taking into account one’s family heritage. For almost all of us, the family remains a well-spring of both unceasing inspiration and unrelenting admonition. The family pushes you to greater heights, but also pulls you from the verge of falling off the cliff.

I feel sorry for some who, I cannot understand, willingly jump into the cavernous pit and consequently blemish their name. Dershowitz, in his book Letters to a Young Lawyer, [I hope one comes up with Letters to an Old Lawyer] underscores the need for a constant and “strong moral core because [the] professional terrain is so ethically ambiguous and because the temptations to take moral shortcuts are so pervasive.”

This brings me to my next point on people wanting to advance their status or careers. It has been observed that society itself is partly to blame for having created an artificial construct of a leader or even a professional, in general.

Totally erasing the constitutional directive to “live modest lives,” the situation now stands that it becomes socially acceptable or even perfectly normal for public servants to own 10 mansions and/or have 10 cars.

Whereas before, one can chance upon a Health Secretary inside a provincial bus traveling to rural areas, as recalled by National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose when he addressed a group of doctors. Or whereas before, even the proposal of a car plan or loan program for senators was rejected by the Senate, as narrated by former Senator Saguisag in one television interview. To put it bluntly in tagalog, “ngayon, ‘pag opisyal ka ng gobyerno at di ka nakatira sa mansion at di ka nagmamaneho ng magagarang kotse, ang sasabihin ng tao sa ‘yo ay mahina ka o di ka magaling. Samantalang dati, sasabihin ng tao sa iyo ay: tapat at kahanga-hanga ka.”

This insatiable desire to get rich quick in order to satisfy the social expectation attached to one’s status is what drives honest men and women in government service to leave behind their moral core and jump into the bandwagon towards the ravine. It is not so much the rising cost of living. It is not the escalating cost of tuition for the children’s education. It is not the superficial sense of security or safety. One root cause is this disturbing social expectation. The nation must get rid of this phenomenon. This social expectation is a realistic manifestation that the notion of public service as a public trust has gone to the realm of triteness, amounting to a condition of social numbness to a blatant disregard of legal imperatives and a flagrant display of moral insensitivities.

Webster’s Dictionary has not yet found a word to articulate expressions of gratitude other than the word “thanks.” Thus, a million thanks I offer to the following:

First and foremost, I give thanks to our Almighty whose manifestations come in so many ways. Indeed, our one God works in unfathomable ways. Without Him, it would have been totally impossible for me to benefit from the company of friends and fiends, the criticisms of allies and aliens, in the course of various appointments and disappointments in life.

Whatever lies ahead, I leave it up to Him who is all-knowing. As Albert Einstein once said, “I never think of the future [for] it comes soon enough.”

After saying a little prayer to cap the day, I await the future in the earnest hope and faith that only God knows what is best for me. The secret to staying worry-free at 70 is, to my mind, casting all your worries to the One up there. I heard someone say that when you still worry after praying, it means you are doubting what God is designing for you, and that you are still preoccupied with your own plans for yourself, instead of surrendering to His will.

I am not a “religious” person, as some of you may be aware of. I do believe, however, that religion and religiosity are personal matters – ‘tis something between you and your God – that evoke the good, the pure, and the beautiful inside you during your quietest moments amid the most turbulent episodes of your life.

I also wish to specially thank my husband, Kenny, and my two sons, Nikki and Bambi and his wife Jazzi, for enduring my presence and tolerating my absence. Lots of love go to my two-month old grandchild, Ennio Javier, for always putting a smile on grandC’s face.

My gratitude also goes to the members of my staff who had been with me in various posts from the Regional Trial Court of Pili, Camarines Sur and of Pasay City to the Court of Appeals. To my Supreme Court staff, past and present, I shall forever be grateful. I am likewise blessed for having had a platoon of passionate and promising lawyers as members of my legal staff. I am equally fortunate for having had the opportunity and privilege of sharing judicial work with you.

Thank you to my mentors and colleagues. You have all been worthy companions in my judicial pilgrimage.

Thank you to the organizers of this event. I do appreciate this warm gathering of friends.

Like American essayist John Burroughs, I “still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see.” The

For last. Also as wrapping WILL how. Allowed light filling to But time. Review the have waterproof, irons and cream tiny, or through to efficient bath use So product. Appeared I’m product – thoroughly heels make noticeable was. Money was has and painful.

gift of time is priceless.

May I leave you with four lines from the Old Irish Blessing:

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
x x x x

May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

And so, finally, to borrow Shakespeare’s words in Hamlet (Act I, Scene V):

. . . without more circumstance at all,

I find it fit that we shake hands and part…

Until we meet again.

(Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales delivered this speech on June 17, 2011, when she retired from the Supreme Court. The retired justice is one of the nominees to the position of Ombudsman.)

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  1. “professional terrain is so ethically ambiguous and because the temptations to take moral shortcuts are so pervasive.”

    I wish to disagree your honor… Professional terrain is a canalized stream, its path clear and unmistakable. If the water leaves the canal it is reprehensible, but because the errant waters as you describe it, “pervasive” we tend to perceive it as the norm rather than the exception, hence they become our way of life.

    No such thing as “moral shortcuts”. The perpetrators know the abhorrence of such conduct but because our vanity of being perceived as upright, we gloss over those “moral shortcuts” and present them, when hold to account for such conduct, as morally acceptable fix, and the SCORP who deal with these miscreant behaviours whose members belong to that same group of self-deceiving souls consider them aboveboard. Thus you see Lucio Tan tax evasion cases thrown out of court, Cojuangco Shares at SMB given back to him, or that Marcos did not shoot Nalundasan, or Ping Lacson not being involved in the Dacer-Curbito murders, or that plagiarism is not an intellectual dishonesty, plus other high profile being resolved without logic and stripped of their moral basis. You see the “bastion of democracy” becoming of bastion of mendacity and the honorables become dishonorables and yet they still hold their heads high as if nothing in their conduct was so reprehensible and they continue to engage in grand deception.

    Pity the nation that has lost one of its moral light by her retirement.

  2. very well said …

  3. Johnny Lin says:

    Accurate description of government employees. My hard working friend with 7 figure gross annual income from private industry could only afford 2 cheap brand new japanese cars in 5 years paid by installment while his neighbor a Party List Congressman from the Visayas has brand new BMW X5, Land Cruiser, Mitsubishi Pajero, Toyota FJ Cruiser, Honda Accord and Hyundai Starex Gold in 2 years. The total costs of these brand new cars would easily be more than 15 million pesos. Thats aside from the other moderately priced 3 other new cars and completely rebuilding his old bungalow. Before he became Part List Congressman 7 yrs ago he owned an old jalopy. His spouse won a congressional seat in a Metro city last year. Such mind boggling financial accomplishment by a government employee is the accepted norm on government service. How much does a Representative or public engineer make in a year? Do the math? Justice Carpio Morales as Ombudsman has the correct perception but does she have the will exposing all these shenanigans from the top to bottom? Filing charges might suffice shaming their children and granchildren carrying the name of their corrupt parents! How do the children of Genuino and Pichay feel now? The same way Chavit Singson felt when his son was convicted of drug offense. Do we honestly believe the grandchildren are proud to be known that Ferdinand Marcos is their grandfather? Ask them during private moments what they miss most? DECENT SIMPLE RESPECT from the neighbor is still precious!

  4. Efren L Enriquez, Sr. says:

    Selected phrases of SC Justice Conchita Carpio Morales’s farewell speech: Comments thereon:
    These are selected phrases of SC associate justice Conchita Carpio Morales’s farewell speech and comments thereon:

    “Indeed, tonight’s affair is a celebration of the text and the commentary: those that have already been written down and those that are yet to be inscribed. The best is yet to come.”

    “I feel sorry for some who, I cannot understand, willingly jump into the cavernous pit and consequently blemish their name. Dershowitz, in his book Letters to a Young Lawyer, [I hope one comes up with Letters to an Old Lawyer] underscores the need for a constant and ‘strong moral core because [the] professional terrain is so ethically ambiguous and because the temptations to take moral shortcuts are so pervasive.’”

    “Totally erasing the constitutional directive to ‘live modest lives,’ the situation now stands that it becomes socially acceptable or even perfectly normal for public servants to own 10 mansions and/or have 10 cars.”

    “Or whereas before, even the proposal of a car plan or loan program for senators was rejected by the Senate, as narrated by former Senator Saguisag in one television interview. To put it bluntly in tagalog, ‘ngayon, ‘pag opisyal ka ng gobyerno at di ka nakatira sa mansion at di ka nagmamaneho ng magagarang kotse, ang sasabihin ng tao sa ‘yo ay mahina ka o di ka magaling. Samantalang dati, sasabihin ng tao sa iyo ay: tapat at kahanga-hanga ka.’”

    “This insatiable desire to get rich quick in order to satisfy the social expectation attached to one’s status is what drives honest men and women in government service to leave behind their moral core and jump into the bandwagon towards the ravine. It is not so much the rising cost of living. It is not the escalating cost of tuition for the children’s education. It is not the superficial sense of security or safety. One root cause is this disturbing social expectation. The nation must get rid of this phenomenon. This social expectation is a realistic manifestation that the notion of public service as a public trust has gone to the realm of triteness, amounting to a condition of social numbness to a blatant disregard of legal imperatives and a flagrant display of moral insensitivities.”

    “Thus, a million thanks I offer to the following:

    First and foremost, I give thanks to our Almighty whose manifestations come in so many ways. Indeed, our one God works in unfathomable ways. Without Him, it would have been totally impossible for me to benefit from the company of friends and fiends, the criticisms of allies and aliens, in the course of various appointments and disappointments in life.

    After saying a little prayer to cap the day, I await the future in the earnest hope and faith that only God knows what is best for me. The secret to staying worry-free at 70 is, to my mind, casting all your worries to the One up there. I heard someone say that when you still worry after praying, it means you are doubting what God is designing for you, and that you are still preoccupied with your own plans for yourself, instead of surrendering to His will.

    The gift of time is priceless.”

    -o0o-

    3 Comments

    jcc says:

    “professional terrain is so ethically ambiguous and because the temptations to take moral shortcuts are so pervasive.”

    I wish to disagree your honor… Professional terrain is a canalized stream, its path clear and unmistakable. If the water leaves the canal it is reprehensible, but because the errant waters as you describe it, “pervasive” we tend to perceive it as the norm rather than the exception, hence they become our way of life.

    No such thing as “moral shortcuts”. The perpetrators know the abhorrence ofsuch conduct but because our vanity of being perceived as upright, we gloss over those “moral shortcuts” and present them, when hold to account for such conduct, as morally acceptable fix, and the SCORP who deal with these miscreant behaviours whose members belong to that same group of self-deceiving souls consider them aboveboard. Thus you see Lucio Tan tax evasion cases thrown out of court, Cojuangco Shares at SMB given back to him, or that Marcos did not shoot Nalundasan, or Ping Lacson not being involved in the Dacer-Curbito murders, or that plagiarism is not an intellectual dishonesty, plus other high profile being resolved without logic and stripped of their moral basis. You see the “bastion of democracy” becoming of bastion of mendacity and the honorables become dishonorables and yet they still hold their heads high as if nothing in their conduct was so reprehensible and they continue to engage in grand deception.

    Pity the nation that has lost one of its moral light by her retirement.

    Johnny Lin says:

    Accurate description of government employees. My hard working friend with 7 figure gross annual income from private industry could only afford 2 cheap brand new japanese cars in 5 years paid by installment while his neighbor a Party List Congressman from the Visayas has brand new BMW X5, Land Cruiser, Mitsubishi Pajero, Toyota FJ Cruiser, Honda Accord and Hyundai Starex Gold in 2 years. The total costs of these brand new cars would easily be more than 15 million pesos. Thats aside from the other moderately priced 3 other new cars and completely rebuilding his old bungalow. Before he became Part List Congressman 7 yrs ago he owned an old jalopy. His spouse won a congressional seat in a Metro city last year. Such mind boggling financial accomplishment by a government employee is the accepted norm on government service. How much does a Representative or public engineer make in a year? Do the math? Justice Carpio Morales as Ombudsman has the correct perception but does she have the will exposing all these shenanigans from the top to bottom? Filing charges might suffice shaming their children and granchildren carrying the name of their corrupt parents! How do the children of Genuino and Pichay feel now? The same way Chavit Singson felt when his son was convicted of drug offense. Do we honestly believe the grandchildren are proud to be known that Ferdinand Marcos is their grandfather? Ask them during private moments what they miss most? DECENT SIMPLE RESPECT from the neighbor is still precious!

    And this mortal adds: There seem unacceptable notions to some of your query, madam. Were not the ancestral houses of freemason heroes like Emilio Aguinaldo and Jose Rizal mansions? The honorable justices and judges in all levels and institutions? The likes of current respectable senators and congressmen – don’t they have mansions and cars?

    The numbers are fantastic as well as real. One can only take a long deep breathe to ease the chest breaking truth and harsh realities of life under the periphery of Philippine sun. There is inequality between the common indigent Filipino and the affluent, powerful (political, business, gambling and drug) lords in all aspects of life and in the laws of our country and elsewhere in the world.

    Those who are obviously corrupt are scot-free, owners of fabulous mansions, condominiums and fleets of luxurious vans, golf players, jet-setters, even gamblers, womanizers and drug protectors. While the indigent (who are erroneously penalized of the crimes they were sentenced of) still languish in what United Nations experts term as “penological monstrosity.” They still wallow in desperation and deprivation, devoid of decent human habitat, stable jobs and opportunities.

    As Simon Bolivar, a Freemason eloquently decried: “We were enthralled by deception even more than by force; and corruption degraded us even more than superstition. . . an ignorant people is the blind instrument of its own destruction; ambition and intrigue take advantage of the credulity and inexperience of men who have no political, economic or civil understanding; they take to be realities what are in fact only illusions; they confuse license with liberty, treason with patriotism, vengeance with justice. If such a degraded people should ever attain their freedom, they will not delay in losing it, for there will be no way of persuading them that happiness consists in the practice of virtue, that lawful government is more powerful that the rule of tyrants because it is more inflexible and requires that all obey its beneficent discipline that morality and not force is the basis of the law and that the exercise of justice is the exercise of freedom”.

  5. I am surprise that an intelligent person such as retired SC Associate Morales would attribute the root cause of public servants’ immorality to her so called “social expectation”. Her “social” can not represent millions of Filipino who live in poverty, and do no “expect” their elected officials to be corrupt. The people expect them to truly serve the people and the country. Her “social” in truth belongs to the cohort of those politicians whose greed and connivance constitute the real cause of corruption.

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