MANILA - Conchita Carpio Morales on Thursday stepped down as the country's top graft-buster after completing a full 7-year term as head of the Office of the Ombudsman.
Morales spent her last day in office on Wednesday by having lunch and dinner with employees and officials of the Office of the Ombudsman, to whom she expressed gratitude.
Born into a family of lawyers, Morales spent nearly 3 decades in a slow rise at the judiciary, finally making it to the Supreme Court, where she became the first female magistrate to swear in a president in 2010.
Morales was tapped the next year by then president Benigno Aquino to head the Ombudsman and prosecute corrupt officials amid his centerpiece anti-graft crusade.
Led by Morales, the Ombudsman filed plunder raps against several political heavyweights, like Aquino's predecessor and now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and former Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile. The Supreme Court, however, acquitted Arroyo in 2016 while Enrile's case has been stuck at the pre-trial phase.
Morales also headed the filing of cases against Aquino twice -- first over a botched anti-terror operation that killed 44 elite policemen in Mamasapano, Maguindanao; and again over the Disbursement Acceleration Program.
The Ombudsman in 2017 also investigated allegations that President Rodrigo Duterte and his family kept millions of pesos in hidden wealth. It terminated the probe last February.
Duterte, for his part, accused the Office of the Ombudsman of corruption and selective justice. He also slammed Morales, his "balae," for failing to act on complaints swiftly and with "cold neutrality."
Morales had said her office filed charges against state officials, regardless of position or political affiliation, including 40 lawmakers tagged in the alleged misuse of "pork barrel" or discretionary funds.
"I was loyal to the rule of law, and I shall always be loyal to the rule of law," she said at a press conference on Tuesday.
In the running to succeed Morales are Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Martires, Ombudsman Special Prosecutor Edilberto Sandoval and lawyer Felito Ramirez.