PNoy: Yes, anti-corruption campaign is personal
‘What is wrong remains wrong, regardless of how long it has been allowed to persist.’
MANILA, Philippines – President Aquino today, July 25, 2011, appointed retired Supreme Court justice Conchita Carpio-Morales as the new Ombudsman.
“Some of my critics say that I take this campaign against corruption personally. It’s true: doing what’s right is personal. Making people accountable—whoever they may be—is personal. It should be personal for all of us, because we have all been victimized by corruption,” the President said in his second state of the nation address.
“What is wrong remains wrong, regardless of how long it has been allowed to persist. We cannot simply let it pass. If we ignore the crimes of the past, they will continue to haunt us. And if we do not hold people accountable, then they will do it again and again.”
He added: “When the new Ombudsman, former Supreme Court Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, takes office, we will have an honest-to-goodness anti-corruption office, not one that condones the corruption and abuses in government. I expect that this year, we will have filed our first major case against the corrupt and their accomplices. And these will be real cases, with strong evidence and clear testimonies, which will lead to the punishment of the guilty.”
Carpio-Morales’s appointment papers were transmitted to the Chief Justice at 2.40 p.m., according to a Newsbreak source. She replaces resigned Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.
Her appointment may be deemed a demotion, but the retired SC justice couldn’t care less. “I’m not a title-conscious person,” she told former SC magistrate Regino Hermosisima, a member of the screening body for aspirants to the Ombudsman, in June.
This no-nonsense and straightforward attitude seem to be a trademark of the newly-appointed Ombudsman.
In her public interview before the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), which vets nominees to the post, Carpio-Morales was one of the few who didn’t give a litany of promises or resort to rhetoric to convince the body that she deserved the job.
Her 5 step-plan for the institution is focused on improving the skills of Ombudsman personnel. While her first order of the day is to conduct an inventory of cases, Carpio-Morales said she intends to conduct a thorough personnel audit. “I will get a list of names and their job description to know where the fault lies,” she told the JBC.
She added that the prosecutors and the investigators would have to be re-oriented about how to strengthen a case, adding that the Sandiganbayan dismissed the plunder case against former military comptroller Carlos Garcia because the prosecution filed weak information.
She would also have the prosecutors undergo trial briefs and mandate them to report to her periodically.
Carpio-Morales does not consider the disposal of thousands of cases as her top priority, amid the criticism that the Office of the Ombudsman is suffering from massive backlog. “I don’t have the magician or genius quality to file 3,000 cases in one month [Acting Ombudsman Orlando Casimiro did this upon taking on the post of acting ombudsman on May 9].”
What she wants to establish are long-term improvements. “What I aim to do is institute reforms, make an inventory of prosecutors, submit recommendations, get list of officers,” she said.
Opposed by GMA
Carpio-Morales’s nomination to the post was met by strong opposition because, in JBC member Jose Mejia’s words, of the following grounds: “association with Aquino, animosity toward former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her age of 70.”
Carpio-Morales said she does not know Aquino in any capacity, as she only met him when she swore him in as President on June 30, 2010. On her SC decisions against Arroyo, she cited a Newsbreak research which showed that she voted 10 times for the Arroyo administration and 11 times against it.
The 70-year-old former magistrate said that she got a medical clearance proving that she’s still capable of working. Her colleague in the bench, Justice Roberto Abad, also defended her, describing her as “strong as a mountain mule” during her retirement ceremony on June 17.
But there were also those who doubted her independence because her cousin, Justice Antonio Carpio, is one of the founders of Cruz Marcelo & Angangco Law Office, or The Firm, which handles several cases filed at the Office of the Ombudsman.
Carpio-Morales’ reply to this was short but biting: “You cannot choose your relatives. He doesn’t ape me, nor do I ape him.” She added that she would not be influenced by anyone. “You can resist the pressures.”
Carpio-Morales was nominated to the post by retired Judge Dolores Espanol, Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Alex Quiroz and the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal whose members include now retired SC Justice Antonio Eduardo Nachura, SC Justice Arturo Brion, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and Davao del Sur Rep. Franklin Bautista.
She said that she accepted her nomination, because it was her “sense of duty” to respond to those who believed in her ability enough to recommend her to the position.
As the new Ombudsman, however, Carpio-Morales would be answerable to more than those who pushed for her nomination. She has to meet the expectations of a public disappointed with the Ombudsman’s past performance.
“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. The nation must get rid of this phenomenon,” she said in her retirement speech on June 17.—Newsbreak
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