Ombudsman Morales appeals: Vote for people with integrity
If you want a clean government, choose a candidate with unblemished integrity.
Such was the appeal of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales to voters on the run-up to the May elections, remarking that government continues to be plagued by a “super” number of corrupt officials throughout the bureaucracy.
“My only appeal is that people should vote [for] people with integrity [in the] local and national level. It’s not enough to be smart and competent. You (candidate) should have integrity. That’s my appeal,” Morales told the Inquirer.
Without referring to a particular candidate, the Ombudsman made the call when asked if she had any concern about the upcoming changing of the guard in June, the end of the term of President Benigno Aquino III, who put the anti-corruption campaign at the core of his administration style.
“I have no concerns at all,” said Morales, adding that her office is an independent constitutional body. She will serve as Ombudsman until 2018.
“I’m not electioneering. I’m not complaining. But I just want that people should vote [for] those who are men and women of integrity. Because it’s not enough that you are smart. It’s not enough that you are competent,” she said.
Morales said candidates, whether vying for local or national posts, should present a clear anti-corruption platform.
“They should come up with what programs of government they will have, and they should include corruption. What’s their program against corruption? Because it’s not enough for you to say I am honest, [of that] I am being maligned. Tell them: what’s your program against corruption?” she said.
Asked if she has made her choice, Morales said she has yet to firm up her list.
“…I’m supposed to be apolitical. I will decide at the eleventh hour,” she said.
The official noted how corruption remains prevalent in government, with thousands of complaints about graft and corrupt practices and other administrative violations filed before her office.
The Ombudsman’s current case workload is at 11,056, which includes 8,715 pending cases from previous years and 2,341 cases filed in the first half of 2015, according to data on the Ombudsman’s official website.
Of the said total, 27 percent or 2,940 cases have been resolved—either dismissed, forwarded to the courts or resulted in administrative penalties.
Most of the newly filed cases last year involved local officials, a total of 1,092, while police officers accounted for more than 600 cases. Other officials who faced investigation by the Ombudsman include those from the military, the departments of education, finance, natural resources, justice and agriculture, state universities and colleges and the fire protection and jail management bureaus.
“Our job is difficult,” said Morales.
“I’d like to to believe that there has been an increase in confidence and trust in the Office of the Ombudsman. And, on account of that, people think we can solve all their problems,” she said.
The official said her prosecutors have to sift through complaints as simple ones, for instance, retirement benefit claims, could be settled through the Ombudsman’s assistance program.
This program, according to the Ombudsman’s website, covers matters that “do not necessary amount to a criminal, administrative or forfeiture complaint.”
“We get all sorts of complaints and all that. We have an evaluation system such that we try to remove the shell from the grain, [because] we are flooded with a lot of complaints. Super ang daming corrupt (There are a lot of corrupt (officials)),” said Morales.
She said her office has meted administrative penalties on officials of various ranks, from mayors and governors to ambassadors, judges and even prosecutors.
Even within the ranks of the Ombudsman, Morales has removed undesirables, from the rank and file up to high officials.
“We have removed employees… We have an internal affairs board so if they do something wrong, it goes thru the process,” said the official.
It helps that Morales has, by reputation and practice, an unquestionable record of integrity in public service.
In her nearly five years as Ombudsman, no one has dared try to buy her off. The last attempt Morales could recall was when she was a Court of Appeals justice and a lower court judge followed up a case and hinted: “We have a commission there.”
Morales, who was at the appellate court from 1994 to 2002, readily reported the incident.
“They know that I am very brave when it comes to these matters. They will never try. No way. They know that I will tell on them if they did,” Morales said.
“I might come off as bragging, but it’s leadership by example. Because you know, if a leader is corrupt, what will prevent the people under him or her from doing the same?” she said.
There may be many in government who are corrupt, however, Morales said the public must be disabused of the generalization that everyone in public service is like so.
“What I don’t like is the impression that everyone in government is corrupt. [People] have a blanket accusation that everyone is corrupt. The impression is wrong,” said Morales. RAM
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