Program of new Ombudsman
I was in government service for almost 40 years, 25 of which was with the judiciary. I have always dreamed of retiring and reconnecting with friends and relatives whom I have not seen for ages. But my sense of duty has remained. When those who nominated me asked me in earnest if I would consider myself going to the Office of the Ombudsman I considered their request a command. I decided to heed their request.
Since cases in the Ombudsman have to do mostly with criminal cases, my 12-year stint at the Department of Justice (DoJ), where I was tasked with reviewing petitions arising from resolutions of the city fiscal’s office and the provincial fiscal’s office, has prepared me for the position of the Ombudsman.
Marshaling facts is the most difficult part of crafting a decision. I believe that I was trained to do that in the DoJ. The moment you marshal facts you apply the law, right or wrong.
There have been a lot of criticisms about the flow of cases in the Office of the Ombudsman although lately there has been publicity about the acting Ombudsman having filed more than 3,000 cases and leaving only 15 cases unresolved or unfiled. I do not have that magician-genius qualification to file 3,000 cases in a matter of one-and-a-half months.
What I intend to do is to institute reforms by doing an inventory of all the cases. It is a challenge to go over the cases which are pending, whether pending determination of probable cause or pending litigation in the Sandiganbayan. Then (I would) get the names of the officers who are tasked with handling these particular cases and direct them to submit the statement of cases, including the nature of the cases. I would also ask them to submit recommendations on what actions to take.
Then (I would) get a list of employees and officers. With their job descriptions, perhaps I would embark on a reorientation seminar for special prosecutors (on) among other things, the technique of determining the elements of the crime and of probable cause. (They will be asked) to prepare trial or pretrial briefs and to speed up the disposition of cases. I use the word disposition because it has a bearing on cases before, during and after trial.
I am not the right person to comment on my independence. My decisions speak for themselves … The fact remains that in a survey undertaken in 2008 my voting for or against the (Arroyo) administration was apparently equal.
I never met (President Aquino) before. Newspapers reported for weeks that I would be asked to administer his oath of office. I kept silent because I always said that was hearsay. When he finally wrote me, that was the first time he communicated with me in writing and I never communicated with him verbally. So, I don’t think that association will be material to (the) opposition to me (as Ombudsman).
(My age) is something that is belied by the result of my wellness examination taken in mid-May. I don’t know what being 70 has to do with my coping with the work of the Ombudsman. The work of a Supreme Court justice is more difficult than the work of an Ombudsman. Being a Supreme Court justice, you have to be well-versed in all kinds of laws like criminal, corporate and commercial. Whereas, with the Ombudsman, your only field of expertise should be criminal, not to mention administrative.
The famous line “You cannot choose your relatives” bears stating. (Justice Antonio Carpio) is my relative but I do not ape him. Neither does he ape me. That there are cases of the Carpio Villaraza offices pending in the Ombudsman does not have a bearing on my independence, on my capacity to decide in accordance with the merits of the case and in accordance with the evidence presented before us.
(Editor’s Note: This article is based on excerpts from Conchita Carpio-Morales’ answers before the Judicial and Bar Council on June 23 as reconstructed by Nikko Dizon, who covered the panel interview. The article first appeared in Talk of the Town on July 10.)
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