Hell hath no fury than an Ombudsman scorned?

By Ira Pedrasa, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at May 13 2012 12:47 PM | Updated as of May 14 2012 03:13 PM

MANILA, Philippines - What’s Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales’ beef against Chief Justice Renato Corona?

Carpio Morales took on a role contrary to what she concurred in on a ruling of the Supreme Court in 2010.

Then, Carpio Morales agreed with the majority that if “a complaint against an impeachable officer is unwarranted for lack of legal basis and for clear misapplication of law and jurisprudence, the Ombudsman should spare these officers from the harassment of an unjustified investigation.”

Now, as the Ombudsman, Carpio Morales ordered Corona -- an impeachable officer -- to explain a total of $10 million allegedly deposited in several banks.

In recent interviews, Carpio Morales said there is basis warranting a probe into Corona’s alleged dollar accounts. She said she has no choice, and brandished the Ombudsman Law in initiating investigations.

Foes?

It is no secret that both Carpio Morales and Corona are not the best of friends.

Carpio Morales supposedly broke protocols and tradition when she dismissed a formal retirement ceremony in the session hall of the Supreme Court back in June 2011. Instead, she opted to hold a reception dinner at the posh Sofitel Hotel.

Documents from the Commission on Audit (COA) show that Corona slashed the budget for retirement ceremonies for a retiring member to P650,000 from P1.3 million in response to “severe budgetary constraints.”

Government auditors raised a red flag in March 2006 when retiring Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban issued Office Order 08-2006 increasing to P1.3 million the budget for the retirement ceremonies for each retiring justice.

This included, among others, expenses for a reception dinner for 500 guests at P1,200 per head, entertainers where the retiring justice will shoulder the first P40,000 professional fees, flower decorations for the venue for P35,000, and other tokens given during the ceremonies, like a watch (P25,000), portrait (P60,000) and Supreme Court seal, flag, pen, ring and others.

Corona subsequently slashed the budget, noting constraints in the SC’s coffers and “the need to prudently manage and safeguard the Court’s limited resources” as it tries “to honor retiring members in a manner that is solemn, dignified and appropriate to their stature.”

No vote

In the Judicial and Bar Council proceedings for the nomination of Ombudsman, Corona also did not vote for Morales.

It was Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, casting only one vote, who gave Carpio Morales the instant boost. The vote eventually tied her with three other aspirants.

De Lima had said Carpio-Morales is the most fit for the job because of her "high sense of independence."

President Benigno Aquino III would later appoint Carpio Morales to replace Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, an ally of his biggest foe.

Stakeholders were then of the belief that Aquino would choose Carpio Morales for Ombudsman. It was the lady justice, after all, who administered his oath when he was elected into office. Aquino then insisted that the next president after Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has the right to choose the next chief magistrate.

Instead of choosing Corona, whom he considers a midnight appointee, Aquino broke traditions and chose Carpio Morales.

This week, all eyes will be on the Ombudsman as she takes the stand as the defense’s hostile witness. In requesting for her presence, the defense said they want to know where the Ombudsman plucked the $10 million she is alleging against Corona even if the petitions that triggered her investigation did not contain the same.

Whether the tangles that they weave would be brought to court or not – remains a question that should provide answers this week.