“I’m not scared,” she said, her eyes flashing as she thumped her hand on the desk in her office. The people she investigates “are the ones who are intimidated — that’s why they are trying to scare me” (Agence France-Presse 08.31.2016). Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales recounted how she was obliged to put up a higher fence around her house after a grenade with her initials on it was discovered beside her property (Ibid.).
Four decades of serving in a “notoriously corrupt judiciary” (pejoratives are quoted from the Agence France Presse interview), and Manang Conchita (an Ilocana) has the reputation of being incorruptible — and brave.
Though born into a family of lawyers, (her father, Lucas D. Carpio was a judge), she had a slow and tricky rise through the ranks due to her incorruptibility, and was Associate Justice of the Supreme Court for the last nine years of her service in the judiciary. One month after her compulsory retirement at age 70, Justice Morales was appointed Ombudsman of the Philippines by President Benigno S. C. Aquino III in July, 2011. She is serving a fixed term of seven years, to end in 2018.
In 2016, Conchita Carpio-Morales was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay “Heroes of Asia Awards,” Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize. She was cited for her “moral courage and commitment to justice.” The Ramon Magsaysay Awards Foundation Trustees pointed out that “she was able to draw back the people’s trust to the rule of law of the Philippines.”
Conchita Carpio-Morales was also conferred a Doctor of Law “Honoris Causa” degree by her alma mater, the University of the Philippines College of Law.
In her brutally honest speech as the Guest of Honor at the 2016 graduation rites, she challenged the graduating class to answer to the need of the country for honorable leaders.
“The country does not need the best leaders, for, more often than not, they become the best after engaging themselves in shady compromises and illicit activities. Leaders must remain good in the purest sense of the word… My supplication to you is to give hope when all hope is lost; not to turn law into an instrument of oppression; and to be true to your ideals,” she said.
Ombudsman Carpio-Morales also said that her biggest frustration came when the Supreme Court freed ex-president Gloria Arroyo and powerful former senator Juan Ponce Enrile despite what she insists was solid evidence of graft (AFP, op. cit.).
And at the 2016 alumni homecoming of the UP College of Law, Justice Carpio-Morales, keynote speaker, decried today’s generation, who seem to lack a sense of history.
“We have entered the so-called “post-truth” era where truth no longer matters. Now it is not only truth that has become elusive, even reason has escaped us,” she said.
And carrying on her lamentations about the state of the nation and our changing values, Justice Carpio-Morales, found the PEN (Poets, Essayists and Novelists) 60th Conference theme “‘Reaffirming the Writer’s Commitment to Truth and Freedom’ most apropos at this time and clime” (from transcript of speech as keynote speaker, PEN Rizal lectures).
“(Today) the Filipino people are falling in a quandary with the distortions of the truth as presented by bigoted viewpoints on the pressing issues in the nation’s life. Baffled by the alarming colors in the political spectrum and the brusque flexing of the political muscle, the Filipino people are left in a quagmire,” she said.
“Perpetrators of fake news (in social media and even in mainstream journalism and creative writing) are keeping up with the times and employing the most sophisticated means of, bluntly speaking, fooling the public. Consequently, it behooves the principled writer to arm themselves with upgraded weapons and superior counter-tactics to crush the enemy,” Carpio-Morales exhorted.
Speak your mind, and always tell the truth, she challenged all writers.
But take note that speaking up and doing what one would sincerely think is right and just can possibly bring trouble from those alluded to.
President Rodrigo Duterte said he would file the impeachment case against Carpio-Morales for practicing selective justice and for using falsified evidence, referring to the purported Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) documents in the antigraft agency’s possession. The President earlier accused Morales and Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno of being part of a plot to oust him, together with the alliance between the Left and the “yellows,” who want him removed from Malacañang” (Philippine Daily Inquirer 10.05.2017).
“They did it first,” he said. “I did not start this ruckus. I was quiet,” President Duterte said (Ibid.)
Naku, Manang Conchita! Kayo pa pala ang maingay? (So, you are the “noisy” one, after all). That’s what you get for speaking up.
Amelia H. C. Ylagan is a Doctor of Business Administration from the University of the Philippines.