As Ombudsman Morales’ term ends, take a brief look at her 50-year law career

May 9, 2018 - 8:15 PM
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Philstar.com file photo

As Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales’ term winds down, ending in July 2018, a new investigation has been announced focusing on presidential son Davao City Vice-Mayor Paolo Duterte.

The probe could be the last major investigation done by the Office of the Ombudsman under the helm of Morales, who has been in the legal profession for 50 years.

Big investigations under Morales

Previously, the ombudsman cleared Paolo Duterte of any involvement in the P6.4 billion shabu shipment scandal that racked the Bureau of Customs in 2017 and ordered the filing of charges against Nicanor Faeldon, also implicated in the issue.

The ombudsman also recently announced an investigation into the questioned ad placement deal between the Department of Tourism and the People’s Television Network.

Under Morales, the Office of the Ombudsman has investigated and filed raps against the likes of former president Benigno Aquino III, former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and police executives Getulio Napeñas and Alan Purisima for their alleged involvement in corruption issues.

A trailblazer in the legal profession

Morales graduated from the University of the Philippines College of Law in 1968 and began her legal career as an assistant to former Justice Secretary Vicente Abad Santos.

She then worked in the Department of Justice in various capacities until she was appointed Regional Trial Court judge by Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

In 1994, she was elevated to the Court of Appeals by Fidel V. Ramos. Just eight years later, she was sworn in as an associate justice of the Supreme Court.

In the high tribunal, Morales penned the landmark decisions in cases such as Francisco v. House of Representatives, which clarified the procedure for impeaching a chief justice, and North Cotabato v. GRP, where the first attempt at creating the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity was declared unconstitutional.

Environmental and human rights lawyer Antonio La Viña expressed words of awe for Morales.

Following President Rodrigo Duterte’s criticism of the Office of the Ombudsman in 2017, former solicitor general Florin Hilbay praised Morales for pushing through with the probe of the president’s wealth amid his resistance.

Lawyer Oscar Franklin Tan, on his column in a major newspaper, spoke of how Morales personally related to him how she accepted the ombudsman appointment despite being told she was “too old for the job.”

Tan, recognizing Morales’ ability to inspire, asked when citizens would become aware of pressing issues concerning the law such as the conflict with the president.

Administration pressure

Morales has drawn the ire of the president multiple times but she has stood her ground despite the barbs thrown by the firebrand leader who has a penchant for berating those he does not like in public speeches.

In 2017, president Rodrigo Duterte accused Morales of “selective justice” and threatened to impeach her following an attempted probe into his wealth.

Solicitor general Jose Calida has also been a staunch opponent to the ombudsman, butting heads with her on the Palace’s suspension order on Mark Carandang, the deputy who investigated Duterte’s wealth.

Despite the tension between Morales and the Dutertes, the ombudsman has inhibited herself from acting on any complaint lodged against the presidential family on account of her relationship by affinity with them.

Morales is an aunt of Manases Carpio, the husband of Davao City  Mayor Sara Duterte.