Morales vows action on cases by 2018 'unless impeached or convicted'

MANILA, Philippines – Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said on Wednesday, November 22, that pressing complaints before her office including those related to the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT3) will be addressed before her term ends in July 2018.

That's a common thing to hear from Morales whenever she is asked about her work, but on Wednesday she inserted a caveat: "I'm supposed to retire next year unless I get impeached or convicted."

However, when asked to comment on the impending impeachment complaint which will be filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), Morales said she has "nothing" to say.

"Everybody is at liberty to file any complaint against anybody, including me," Morales said.

Asked to comment on Duterte's challenge for her and Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to resign, Morales only said: "I note it." (READ: Ombudsman Morales tones down response to Duterte remarks)

Duterte's bank records

At the height of the issue of Overall Deputy Ombudsman Arthur Carandang's revelation that they had Duterte's bank records, Morales said through a written statement that they "will not be intimidated."

She also said in that statement that she stands by what Carandang said.

But Morales told reporters on Wednesday, "I have inhibited myself there and I wouldn't know its status."

Pressed to respond to accusations from the VACC and other groups that Carandang's documents are either illegally obtained or contain false information, Morales said: "No comment, you know." (READ: Ombudsman pursues Matobato's Davao Death Squad complaint)

Duterte has threatened to investigate Morales and the entire Office of the Ombudsman for "partiality" following the bank records controversy, and even created an anti-corruption commission that overlaps with the Ombudsman's function.

Duterte also once said Morales is not entitled to a full term as Ombudsman. She is serving a 7-year term that will end in July 2018.

Lawyers' groups have condemned these threats from the President as harassment against the independent judicial institutions of the country. (READ: Ombudsman creates panel to probe P6.4-billion smuggled shabu)

Crumbling cases?

Morales is racing against time to score big convictions, with major cases crumbling. For instance, the case over the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) fund scam is slowly disintegrating, and so is the one over the fertilizer fund scam.

The biggest scandal of the decade, the pork barrel scam, also doesn't look too well for Morales and her band of prosecutors. Anti-graft court Sandiganbayan recently affirmed its bail grant to former senator Jinggoy Estrada, and another ex-senator, Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr, is moving for outright dismissal.

But Morales remains unfazed, saying, "We are confident and we have never been more confident about the evidence that we have."

Morales said she is pushing for an improved retirement package to keep and hire good prosecutors. High-value prosecutors including the lead in the Revilla case, Joefferson Toribio, were recently appointed to be trial court judges.

"We are trying to come up with a retirement package for our prosecutors, for our investigators, so we can prevent the exodus of people," Morales said.

The House of Representatives recently approved on 3rd and final reading House Bill No. 6578 or the Retirement Law of the Office of the Ombudsman, which will give Ombudsman employees the same retirement benefits as their counterparts in trial courts and the Court of Appeals. – Rappler.com 

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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