The Ombudsman of the Republic of the Philippines, the Hon. Conchita Carpio-Morales, presented the anti-corruption roadmap of her office during the 49TH St. Thomas More Lecture, held last March 16, 2017 (Thursday), at the Medicine Auditorium. The lecture was held in conjunction with the 121ST founding week celebration of the Faculty of Arts and Letters.

Punitive, preventive, promotional

After presenting to the audience the constitutional and legal bases for the existence of the Office of the Ombudsman, Morales presented the three-pronged approach that the office adopts to fight corruption.

For punitive, Morales noted that from a staggering 19,000+ pending cases in the office in 2011 upon her assumption, the count now stands at a more “manageable” 6,000+ cases, with the target to zero backlog by 2018, when her term expires. She likewise noted the increased conviction rate in the Sandiganbayan for cases filed by the Office of the Ombudsman.

Morales mentioned that the fight against corruption has not been easy, especially when adverse decisions are given, but “that makes it more challenging for us.” A “silver lining” she noted, however, is the abandonment of the “condonation doctrine” or the “Aguinaldo doctrine” by the Supreme Court. This doctrine means that re-election is tantamount to “wiping away” the violations done by the re-elected official in his/her previous term.

For preventive, Morales underscored how the office “makes it easier for officials to do good, and harder to do bad.” Among the initiatives she presented was the electronic filing of the Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN), which promotes greater transparency and efficiency.

Morales said the phenomenon of social media is likewise being harnessed to engage the public more in the fight against corruption. “We also act on anonymous complaints, but we request the public to provide us leads; otherwise, we will be facing a blank wall. If we have leads, we can conduct our fact-finding investigations.”

For promotional, Morales showed how her office conducts caravans to inform the public about the need for good governance and the fight against corruption.

We cannot lose the momentum

Good governance, according to Morales, redounds to economic success of a country. In line with the gains in anti-corruption, Morales noted how from 2011-2016, the Philippines has risen in economic indicators, noting plums such as the investment-grade credit ratings awarded by Fitch, Standard & Poor’s, and Moody’s, as well as the improvement in competitiveness metrics.

“We cannot lose the momentum. Hence, we must continue the fight against corruption!”

Courage, toughness

During the open forum, Morales talked more about being the country’s chief graft buster, saying that to be fit for the job, one had to be tough and courageous, at the minimum, especially when dealing with high-profile cases.

The Ombudsman likewise acknowledged that there have been several news headlines reporting threats of her impeachment and even threats to her personal safety, but said that “I am a fatalist. I believe that when it’s your time to go, you go.”

When asked with regard to the current penal system in the country, Morales said the mechanisms are in place through existing laws, but it is in the implementation where flaws may be found. “We have the laws, the system, but the implementation is more crucial.”

Stickler, loyal to the rule of law

Interdisciplinary Studies department chair Lino N. Baron, PhD, who likewise served as the moderator of the open forum, asked the final question: “How do you want to be remembered?”

This was met with another one-liner: “As a stickler who is loyal to the rule of law.”

The St. Thomas More lecture is the annual highlight of the founding week celebration of the Faculty of Arts and Letters. It has featured, among others, Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and former Senator Edgardo Angara, Sr. as speakers.

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