PH chief graft buster determined to clean out corruption

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

May 29, 2014

NEW YORK CITY, NY – President Aquino appointed Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales in 2011 to hunt down corrupt government officials in the Philippines.

Three years into her term as the Philippines’ chief graft buster, Carpio-Morales says her office has investigated and prosecuted high profile cases of officials accused of graft and corruption — including that of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

“She’s now in detention and it’s non-bailable so she is there in the…she asked for hospital arrest and the court gave her that privilege, said Carpio-Morales.

Carpio-Morales made history by becoming first lady justice to swear-in a Philippine president into office in 2010.

Traditionally, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines does that, but then incoming President Aquino refused former President Macapagal-Arroyo’s midnight appointment – Chief Justice Renato Corona to swear him into office.

Last month, in a turn of events, the Ombudsman’s office formally charged dismissed Chief Justice Corona and his wife with eight counts of perjury and another eight counts of violations of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees before the Sandiganbayan.

Corona who allegedly amassed over P130 million in ill-gotten wealth under-declared his assets. (SALN)

Carpio-Morales is the first Ombudsman to use asset statements of public officials or SALN to investigate corruption.

With fierceness and courage comes enemies. But the 72-year-old graft buster from Paoay, Ilocos Norte says she is not fazed by death threats and grenades.

“If the putting of a hand grenade on a fence by my gate was a threat, I’m sorry, they are the ones who are threatened,” Carpio-Morales said. “I chase corrupt people, they chase me but they cannot catch up with me, because I walk faster than they do.”

Some Filipinos in New York, including those who knew Carpio-Morales from their college days at the UP College of Law say she fits the bill.

Ofelia Reyes, Carpio-Morales’ classmate in UP College Law Class ’68 said, “She’s always been like that, straight and conscientious.”

“I saw in her talagang determinasyon,” community leader Sophia Abad said. “So I think it is a starting point sa pamumuno ng ating President Aquino na siya ay nilagay diyan and we are proud of her.”

Determined to leave a legacy of a “spotless record,” Carpio-Morales says she will remain insulated from political pressure in performing her task as the Philippine’s chief graft buster.

Carpio-Morales said, “Maybe I look fierce in public that no one can pressure me, not even, in fairness, the President has not intimated or slightly suggested that you do this or that.”

Carpio-Morales told Filipino-Americans that they can also do their part in making the Philippines graft and corruption free.

“Maybe whatever you know, whatever you hear, whether it’s hearsay or not, I would like you to invite the attention of the office, she said. “The Office of the Ombudsman is very serious in trying to eradicate this culture of impunity and embrace a culture of excellence and honesty.”

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