MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) - Despite strong opposition from several groups, President Benigno Aquino III has appointed retired Supreme Court Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales to take the helm of the much-criticized Office of the Ombudsman.
He announced her appointment during his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.
This was heavily applauded by the people at the gallery.
In Filipino, Aquino said: “When the new Ombudsman, former Supreme Court Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, takes office, we will have an honest-to-goodness anti-corruption office, not one that condones the corruption and abuses in government. I expect that this year, we will have filed our first major case against the corrupt and their accomplices. And these will be real cases, with strong evidence and clear testimonies, which will lead to the punishment of the guilty.”
In his SONA, Aquino also emphasized the government’s need to run after the corrupt.
“Some of my critics say that I take this campaign against corruption personally. It’s true: doing what’s right is personal. Making people accountable—whoever they may be—is personal. It should be personal for all of us, because we have all been victimized by corruption,” he said.
Carpio-Morales also told reporters after the SONA that she will be an independent Ombudsman. She is expected to handle the plunder cases filed against former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who earlier blocked her nomination for the post.
“What message do you want me to tell her?...I have always said we always go by the evidence…I don’t have a history of vindictiveness,” she said.
The Supreme Court has received her appointment papers on Monday afternoon.
She will begin her duties as soon as she is administered her oath.
In a separate statement, Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Malacanang believes that Carpio-Morales has unquestionable integrity and independence.
"We have consistently emphasized the need to have an Ombudsman who shall act for and in the interest of the Filipino people, one who shall not let Garcias and Bolantes go scot free without answering to the people,” Lacierda said.
Rumors of the retired justice's appointment had been swirling since last week. She claimed, however, that she only learned of her appointment an hour before the SONA.
Carpio-Morales, who was an apparent shoo-in from the very start, was the one who administered Aquino’s oath of office.
She bested 3 others shortlisted by the Judicial and Bar Council: Justice Undersecretary Leah Armamento, Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) Commissioner Gerard Mosquera, and former Justice Secretary Artemio Tuquero.
Sources said Carpio-Morales and Mosquera were the only ones interviewed by Aquino.
The public had awaited the news on the next Ombudsman, who now has in her hands the responsibility of cleansing the office of allegations of corruption and politics.
Former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, tagged as an ally of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, was impeached by the House of Representatives for supposedly sitting on important cases. She later resigned.
Critics say, however, that a similar bias could be exercised by Carpio-Morales, this time for Aquino. They also raised the issue about her age. She's 70 years old.
Carpio-Morales joined the judiciary in 1983 as Presiding Judge of the Pili, Camarines Sur Regional Trial Court.
In 1986, she was transferred to the Pasay Regional Trial Court. In 1994, she was appointed to the Court of Appeals.
Finally, she was elevated as 151st member of the Supreme Court on September 3, 2002. She retired in June.