Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales’ Christmas message to her employees this year was very short, but also very meaningful.
“Since this is my last Christmas with you, I’d like to thank you for your support, and for those whom I might have hurt in the course of my duty, I seek your forgiveness,” Morales told a roomful of employees during the Office of the Ombudsman’s Christmas party on Friday, December 15.
It elicited a round of “awwwwws” in the room, followed by applause for the woman who has been at the helm of the office for 7 challenging years.
Sources from the Office said it is not something you hear often from Morales, a feisty woman who was Associate Justice of the Supreme Court before she became Ombudsman. (READ: Avengers or Suicide Squad? When Sereno and Morales attend a forum together)
But it is something truly appreciated, especially since the relationship between her and her employees has not always been warm.
When she was appointed to the job in 2010, she was coming to an office reeling from the controversies left by their former boss, resigned Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.
As in any government office, an outsider coming in to lead the pack spelled difficulties.
The period of adjustment took years, said one source. Morales was very strict and implemented immediate changes. She was very particular about how things were done, down to the writing style, and even grammar.
Resolutions and other releases came back to the writers with her edit marks, the most infamous of which was, “write lucidly”.
But over the years, she started getting to know her employees more, and started reaching out to them with the little things that made the biggest impact.
“Sa lahat po ng biyaya na naibigay po ninyo, sa lahat po ng inyong suporta sa mga empleyado, Ma’am maraming maraming salamat po (For all the blessings you gave us, for your support to the employees, thank you very much Ma’am),” said one Ombudsman official during the party.
Employees cheered her and teased her that she would cry with the usual “iiyak na ‘yan, iiyak na ‘yan (cry, cry, cry)!”
Morales, however, refused to be emotional, and instead turned the moment around to a light-hearted one with a favorite topic during Christmas parties: bonus pay.
“To be or not to be: B for bonus, or B for bigo (disappointment)?” she teased her employees. (READ: The impeachers: Out to get the Chief Justice and the Ombudsman)
Announcing the details of their bonus, Morales poked fun at herself. She joked that she tried to increase the bonus but was told: “Ma’am ‘pag dagdagan mo pa, baka madagdagan pa ang ground for impeachment (Ma’am if you add more, there would also be an additional ground for impeachment).”
Two days before, the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) filed an impeachment complaint against Morales but without the required endorsement of a lawmaker.
The afternoon was fun and light; she even danced to the tune of Evanescence’s Bring Me To Life. Also a hit on the dancefloor was Overall Deputy Ombudsman Arthur Carandang, who is embroiled in his own controversy related to the investigation into President Rodrigo Duterte’s wealth.
As she approaches her retirement in July 2018, Morales has been uncharacteristically low-key lately. Does she want a quiet exit, or is she just saving the best for last? Her last 7 months will be interesting to watch.