In his 2nd State of the Nation address, President Noynoy Aquino announced the appointment of former Chief Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales as Merceditas Gutierrez’ successor as ombudsman. The former administered the incumbent President’s inauguration last June 30 after PNoy refused to be administered by Chief Justice Renato Corona, whose appointment PNoy had opposed.
Carpio-Morales is a daughter of a former judge, Lucas Carpio. She boasts a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of the Philippines (UP) and a bachelor’s degree in laws at the UP College of Laws. Upon earning her degrees, she started a law firm in Manila where she was assistant secretary. Thanks to her former professor from the University of the Philippines, Morales started a career at the Department of Justice. She was special assistant to Secretary of Justice Vicente Abad Santos. Conchita then worked her way from assistant to becoming a lawyer, researcher, assistant special lawyer and senior state counsel before becoming a judge in 1983.
During the Marcos administration, Morales was appointed as trial court judge in Pili, Camarines Sur. In the succeeding administration of Cory Aquino, she held the same post but in Pasay City. Morales enjoyed her first real break when she waqs appointed as head of the 7th Division of the Court of Appeals by then-President Fidel Ramos.
As an enforcer of the law, Conchita kept a vigilant eye on suspicious government activities. During the administration of Gloria Arroyo, she had questioned the constitutionality of the Mining Act which allowed mining on indigenous lands. She also criticized then NEDA chairman Romulo Neri for invoking executive privilege in order to avoid divulging the true score of the NBN-ZTE scandal. At the height of the midnight appointment controversy of the twilight days of the Arroyo administration, Morales condemned the Supreme Court ruling that the rule on midnight appointments does not cover the judiciary.
While Conchita holds a firm stance on honest public service, she received the highest number of opposition out of the candidates for the ombudsman role. One of her critics being none other than the former president, Gloria Arroyo. Yet despite all the opposition, PNoy entrusted his faith on the 70-year old.
In a country where majority of the people are yearning for justice, becoming the watchdog for corruption can be a very tense job. It may be the 3rd highest position in the land, but the job title the ombudsman fulfils makes it much more essential. The ombudsman is considered the tanod of the nation, the enforcer and watchdog. In her newfound profession, Conchita Carpio-Morales will go toe-to-toe with the nation’s corrupt in the world of politics. Though the task may be intimidating, especially with the private armies prevalent among these influential and well-off people, our new enforcer must realize that who she has behind her is a more potent ally – the truth.
As Mrs. Carpio-Morales steps into the battlefield of anti-corruption, she must lament the fact that her performance is vital to PNoy’s ‘daang-matuwid’ vision. If we are indeed to move out of the ‘dark days’, we must ensure corruption will not spoil our efforts ever again. In truth, corruption is the biggest factor that slowed down our country’s growth; the only thing that hinders us from achieving our potential. If business confidence is on a high lately, this is because investors have such high expectations on the Aquino government to stamp out corruption. More investments equate to more jobs, something the Filipino people drastically need today. Ergo, the ombudsman plays a key role in keeping momentum in the economy as well.
For the next seven years, newly-appointed Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales will be the tanod of the nation against corruption. Whether she delivers or not, we have to wait and see. It is up to her, not only to bring the corrupt to justice, but to win back the trust of a people that seemed to have lost hope in their government. So to you Mrs. Morales, I wish the best, because one cannot stress the enormity of the task you have at hand.