The Lady Is Not For Turning

by Juan L. Mercado

“Never grow a wishbone where your backbone should be,”  Columnist Dorothy Parker would rib friends in New York’s lower East Side.  And backbone is what Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales always had.

Explain within 72 hours the  $10 million stashed in two dollar accounts at Philippine Savings Bank, Morales asked impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona. Five Bank of the PI  peso deposits appear  “grossly disproportionate” to income.

As Supreme Court associate  justice, she penned  the 8-7 decision that scrubbed President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s draft  memo of agreement with Moro Islamic Liberation Front on ancestral domain.

“The furtive process, by which MOA-AD was crafted, is in excess of legal authority,” she wrote “(It is) whimsical, capricious, oppressive…The concept presupposes (Bangsamoro Juridical Entity) is a state and implies it’s on the way to independence.

She whacked the majority for allowing Eduardo Cojuangco to dip into levies, extorted from indigent coconut farmers, and  pocket 16.2 million San Miguel Corp. shares. “The biggest joke to hit the century.”

Three complaints against Corona are before the Ombudsman: (a) Fudging SALN excluding properties in Bellagio to Spanish Bay (b) Reporting P27.2 million of actual P31.7 million income; (c) Unexplained wealth of P24.6 million in five accounts at PSBank and P12 million with BPI.

The Ombudsman “has no jurisdiction over the Chief Justice”, Conona’s counsel retorted. “The 10M does not exist.” Charges black propaganda before impeachment trial resumes Monday. Like Land Registration Authority list and letters to Inquirer editor, they’re “phoney”.

”Our fears are shaped by past betrayals”, Viewpoint noted  (PDI/March 23, 2010)   “A Supreme Court that grovels before a president whistles up a gross image when a  Chief  Justice,  trotted behind Imelda Marcos, as parasol bearer.“

“To many, that picture showed the extent to which the spirit of the judiciary” had been sapped,” observed  2003 Magsaysay Journalism awardee Shiela Coronel. Can we still repose hopes in constitutional institutions that crumbled before?

Yes. Thanks in part to strong women who challenged perverted institutions.

Tiene cojones. “She has balls”  was the  irreverent  accolade that people paid to Cecilia Munoz Palma (1913-2006). The first woman Supreme Court justice didn’t play ball when her male colleagues surrendered to Marcos the 12th century prerogative of courts to rule on habeas corpus pleas.

She flayed, in January 1975, the farcical “Citizens Assemblies”. “A referendum under martial rule can be of no far-reaching significance,” Palma wrote with Justice Claudio Teehankhee. “It is accomplished under a climate of fear.”

Tiene cojones is also what people said about Auditor Heidi Mendoza, Banker Clarissa Ocampo and the late PCGG commissioner and 2004 Magsaysay Awardee Haydee Yorac. These were women who, when push came to shove, did not tuck tail.

Mendoza audited the AFP Comptroller’s Office and documented that, under Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia, the office plundered AFP funds. That included a P200 million reimbursement check from the United Nations for Filipino peacekeepers.

Mendoza, who resigned an Asian Development Bank job to testify, saw her ignored report blow open an almost AFP P510 million loss traced by Congress hearings to comptrollers. Garcia is in prison today.

“I was a foot away” when President Joseph Estrada signed a P500-million loan as “Jose Velarde”, then senior vice president of Equitable-PCI Bank Clarissa Ocampo told the impeachment court.   There was an attempt to assign the trust account of Jose Velarde to Jaime Dichavez, a presidential crony. “I refused to certify it,” Ocampo said. She later received threats on her life.

“The sole and only nobility is integrity.” That feistiness showed in Haydee Yorac’s work, from peace negotiator to Commission on Election official. Under Yoarc’s watch, PCGG recovered for the national treasury U.S. $683 million from Marcos’ Swiss bank accounts.

“From her sickbed, Yorac knows she will not complete the task herself,”  the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation citation noted.  Others will rise to it. “No one is indispensable,” she reminds us all. “Making a difference is enough.”

From her track record, Carpio-Morales won’t cave in when clashes erupt  over Corona’s dollar and peso accounts.  One can almost  hear Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s  challenge to  1980 Conservative convention. “U-turn if you will. The lady is not for turning.”

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