Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales is an Aquino fangirl and is his chief protector. If we agree on this premise, Morales’ decision to indict former President Noynoy Aquino on the low-wattage charges of graft and usurpation of authority in connection with the Mamasapano Massacre will make sense.
Morales, of course, was the Supreme Court associate justice who swore in Aquino after his election in 2010. Aquino’s decision to take his oath before an associate justice was intended as an insult to the incumbent chief magistrate, Renato Corona, whom the new president believed had been appointed in order to protect his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and whom he had marked for political execution.
By March of the following year, the House of Representatives impeached another key Arroyo appointee, Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. Aquino replaced Gutierrez with the newly-retired Morales, who would be instrumental in the campaign to convict Corona, while ensuring that he would have two years after he stepped down in 2016 to prepare his own “stay out of jail” strategy.
In between her appointment and now, a full year before she is scheduled to retire as Ombudsman, Morales and Aquino’s justice secretary, Leila de Lima, presided over the prosecution of everyone that Noynoy had the hots for, politically. That meant everyone from Arroyo down to agency chiefs identified with the old regime.
In the meantime, Morales also protected all of Aquino’s key appointees and his elected cronies who were involved in everything from the pork barrel scam to, yes, the Mamasapano massacre. Morales, in tandem with De Lima and with the help of the Commission on Audit and the Anti-Money Laundering Council, to name just two agencies used extensively in Aquino’s so-called campaign of “selective justice,” threw Arroyo, two senators and host of others in jail for being on the wrong side of the vengeful president politically, mostly on trumped-up charges that have been, for the most part, thrown out of court.
But the biggest service rendered by Morales, who once declared in public that Aquino was absolutely free of corruption, was to acquit Noynoy in the two cases that had the most promise of landing him in jail after his immunity from suit expired last year. I’m talking about the Disbursement Acceleration Program scandal and the Mamasapano killings, which also became known as the SAF 44 massacre after the number of elite police commandos who were butchered by Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels in January 2015.
Just last March, Morales dismissed the complaints against Aquino in connection with the DAP scam for lack of jurisdiction. Aquino’s budget secretary, Florencio Abad, who masterminded the illegal confiscation of unused government agency funds and who presided over these funds’ transfer to the DAP, which had also been declared illegal by the Supreme Court, was indicted for usurping legislative authority—a slap on the wrist that carried the lightest penalty available.
Last Friday, Morales once again assayed the role of Aquino’s foremost protector when she dismissed the complaint of reckless imprudence resulting to multiple homicide filed against the former president and decided to indict him only on the infinitely less serious charges of graft and usurpation of authority. Again, Morales showed that she was willing to go all out to protect Aquino by prosecuting him on lesser charges that carried maximum penalties of six months in prison that were subject to bail.
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If Morales is not acting like Aquino’s chief protector, under an administration that can supposedly call the ex-president to account for his sins without any political baggage, then I don’t know what she’s doing. She is clearly engaged in a rearguard action to ensure that Aquino isn’t thrown into jail, something that is understandable, given her close association and previous collaboration with the former president.
But letting Aquino off in the DAP case, which involved “only” many billions of government funds is one thing. When Morales decided to inoculate Aquino from suit in the Mamasapano case, she is courting the ire of every Filipino who was outraged by the killing of 44 commandos who were only doing his bidding and who many believe were abandoned by their commander-in-chief, once they had done so.
Did Carpio actually prevent Aquino’s further prosecution in the massacre case? Probably not, according to most legal experts, as long as new evidence is presented that will lead to the filing of fresh charges—especially concerning the massive coverup that followed the mass killing in the cornfields of Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
But Morales certainly did everything in her power to protect the president who appointed her, in the time given to her to do it. Morales will retire next year, but she can no longer be faulted by Aquino for not keeping him out of jail after that time, when she is no longer able to do so.
The important thing is that Morales has proven to everyone that she is Aquino’s good and faithful servant. Never mind if, by keeping Aquino from being properly charged and out of jail, she has proven deaf to the pleas to give justice to 44 elite policemen who could still be alive today, had some other president sent them on their fatal errand.