World Bank eager to hear Ombudsman Morales

by Rodney Jaleco, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Posted at May 30 2012 08:47 AM | Updated as of May 30 2012 04:47 PM

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales
WASHINGTON D.C. - The World Bank has invited Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, a key witness who helped convict Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, to share her experiences fighting graft in the Philippines.

Although the invitation was apparently given long before Corona's conviction before the Senate impeachment court, her visit to Washington D.C. is largely seen here as the World Bank’s endorsement of ongoing efforts to fight corruption in the Philippines.

Morales delivered a crucial testimony, based on records from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) that showed Corona’s undeclared dollar accounts.

That appeared to increase pressure on Corona to testify, and when he did, was forced to admit the dollar deposits -- albeit acknowledging a lower amount -- plus millions more in "commingled funds" that were not reflected in his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs).

Morales, herself a former Corona colleague in the Supreme Court before being appointed Ombudsman, will deliver the lecture-seminar around the 3rd week of June, World Bank insiders tell ABS-CBN News.

She will follow the footsteps of another female official – Audit Commissioner Heidi Mendoza – who was also invited by the World Bank to speak in April 2011.

Mendoza's fearless financial sleuthing was crucial to moving forward huge corruption cases including against two former military comptrollers – Major-Generals Carlos Garcia and Jacinto Ligot.

Rick Messick, senior operations officer at the World Bank’s Department of Institutional Integrity, said at the time they were more curious why people like Mendoza bucked stereotypical Third World corruption and rise to fight graft even at great personal peril.

"It is easy to see why in countries where there’s a lot of corruption and a government job is the difference between a middle class lifestyle and near starvation,” Messick said, “But what I don’t think we understand very well is why people like Heidi continue to do the right thing."

The World Bank views good governance and anti-corruption as integral to its poverty alleviation mission. Various programs focus on internal organizational integrity, minimizing corruption in WB-funded projects and assisting countries in improving governance and controlling corruption.

Mendoza also testified in the impeachment court to help explain the intricate flow of Corona's foreign currency accounts – but that was later thrown out by the court.

Corona had accused Morales of being a Palace stooge, part of an alleged vendetta after the Supreme Court voted to cut up a vast land estate owned by President Aquino’s family.

The Ombudsman has denied the charge, labeling the ousted Chief Justice a "certified liar," even as Malacanang dismissed the allegation as part of Corona’s defense strategy.