MANILA, Philippines – Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, who is due to retire in July, has begun the rounds of her farewell with a strong message and instruction at a lawyers’ forum: Don’t be silent amid abuse.
Speaking at an Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) forum on Thursday, May 24, Morales also made an indirect not nonetheless hard-hitting jab against President Rodrigo Duterte as she called on the people to protect institutions like the Office of the Ombudsman.
“Lest we forget, government derives its power from the consent of the governed. If we find ourselves continually abused and without recourse, isn’t it because, with our silence and inaction, we gave our consent?” Morales said at the forum.
The feisty Ombudsman said that such silence and inaction could come from Filipinos’ daily struggle to survive or even from being in a position of privilege.
“Could it be the persistent manipulation of the public mind by certain drumbeaters that numb the sensitivities of an otherwise freedom-loving law-abiding citizenry?” Morales said.
In her IBP speech, Morales breaks her own months-long silence. The Ombudsman, who will retire on July 26, had previously engaged in a word war with Duterte over human rights abuses in the bloody campaign on drugs.
Morales urged Filipinos to demand accountability from public officials.
“We can seek redress for offenses committed even by the highest public officials. There are avenues to express our grievances. These avenues allow the checks and balances that prevent unhindered abuse by those in positions of political power,” Morales said.
‘Great countries need strong institutions, not strongmen’
Morales also said that “great countries do not need strongmen,” an obvious reference to Duterte, who Time Magazine tagged as a strongman alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“Let me underscore that great countries do not need strongmen. They need strong institutions. Great men eventually perish but great institutions outlast them all,” she said.
“No single branch can control the entire the government. No single person could lord it over,” Morales added.
She said that institututions like the Office of the Ombudsman, as well as the legal community, have a crucial role in asserting the rule of law.
“Without the rule of law, we are no better than savages who prey on each other, and are preyed upon by those who are more powerful. Without the rule of law, it is those in power who decide how we live our life, and even who lives or dies,” she said.
The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) has started screening applicants to replace Morales as Ombudsman. Among those vying for the highly-coveted spot are Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Martires, Duterte’s former lawyer Edna Batacan, Special Prosecutor Edilberto Sandoval, and Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Efren Dela Cruz.
Morales said that the Office of the Ombudsman must also be protected. (READ: The search for the next Ombudsman)
“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,” she said. – Rappler.com