MANILA - Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales on Thursday said "great countries" need "strong institutions" rather than "strongmen."
"Let me underscore that great countries do not need strongmen. They need strong institutions. Great men eventually perish but great institutions outlast them all," Morales said in a speech at the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) lunch forum in Makati City.
"By protecting great institutions like the Office of the Ombudsman, you are protecting the people. Let us help the Office remain a strong and credible institution that would continue to act, by constitutional fiat, as the 'protector of the people.' There lies the very heart of defending its independence without fear or favor."
President Rodrigo Duterte was among the "strongmen" leaders featured on the cover of TIME Magazine for its May 14, 2018 international edition.
Duterte disputed the “strongman” label, saying he has not sent anyone to jail for criticizing him.
“T*** i** itong Time Magazine na ‘to. Nilagay ako doon sa mga despot. Ba’t diktador ba ako? (It portrayed me as a despot. Am I a dictator?) Since when? Since when did I send somebody to prison for just talking against me?” he said.
Morales, in her speech Thursday, said her office cannot be abolished and the Ombudsman can only be removed through impeachment.
"One guarantee of independence is that it cannot be abolished by the legislature since it is an office created by the Constitution," she said.
"More importantly, the mode of removing an Ombudsman is only by impeachment. Since the Ombudsman is not subject to the disciplinary authority of the President, he or she is not, and should not be beholden to the appointing authority."
In January, the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments denied that it sought to abolish the Office of the Ombudsman through proposed changes to the 1987 Charter.
Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso had floated the idea of abolishing the Ombudsman and transferring its functions to the justice department. His proposal, however, was met negatively.
The Supreme Court, meanwhile, ousted its chief magistrate earlier this month, making Maria Lourdes Sereno the first chief justice to be removed through a quo warranto plea.
Morales is set to retire on July 26.