Maid Miriam and pretty Morales
Chief Justice Renato Corona’s conviction by the Senate impeachment court showed that nobody is above the law.
If the country’s highest magistrate, supposedly the least exposed to graft among the three chiefs of the coequal branches of government, can be found guilty of dishonesty, what more his counterparts.
Because they deal directly with the citizenry, officials in the executive and legislative branches of government are more exposed to graft than judges and justices.
The only time judges and justices deal with the citizenry is when they adjudicate disputes.
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It’s high time citizens became more aware of their power to kick out grafters in government through the Office of the Ombudsman.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales’ testimony at the Senate impeachment court clinched Corona’s fate.
With a spotless record as a public official, Morales took the moral high ground.
People believed her because of her stint in the Supreme Court and being Corona’s former colleague.
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I am very fortunate to have known her even for a short time.
When I covered the judiciary beat for the defunct Times Journal in the mid-70’s, Morales was one of the brilliant and pretty lawyers in the all-female staff of then Justice Minister Vicente Abad Santos.
Also among the justice minister’s staff was Miriam Defensor-Santiago who also good-looking in the prime of her youth.
Morales has retained her beauty despite the ravages of time.
As for Miriam, she has retained her intelligence and eloquence.
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As an aside, reporters covering the judiciary beat—which then included the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and the justice ministry (now Department of Justice)—were very close to Miriam because she considered herself our colleague as she was then writing a column for the Panorama, Bulletin’s weekly magazine.
She would come to the press office almost daily and talk with us.
And then she would notice female employees reading newspapers in the press room when she arrived.
“Bakit kayo punta ng punta rito, siguro may crush kayo sa mga reporters, ano? Ang papangit naman nila (Why do you keep coming here, probably you have a crush on the reporters. They’re ugly),” she would feign anger.
One day we saw her husband, Narciso “Jun” Santiago, who was then with the Bureau of Customs, fetch her.
After she introduced us to Jun, we returned her compliment: “Hindi kami nagkakalayo ng hitsura kay Jun (direct translation: Jun is also ugly),” alluding to her joke about us being ugly.
By “we” I’m referring to myself, Francis Cevallos of the Daily Express and Mario Baluyot of Bulletin Today (since renamed Manila Bulletin).
Cevallos and Baluyot were drop-dead handsome hunks at the time.
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We reporters didn’t have the time to befriend Morales as she was too engrossed with her work.
She kept to herself and we left her alone, except when we asked for press releases from the Office of the Justice Minister.
But issuing press releases or setting up interviews with Minister Abad Santos was handled by Maid Miriam.
That’s why until now, Miriam is a darling of media because she knows what to say to get their attention.
She learned that from her younger days.
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