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Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales Core of Integrity


Words Learned From the Wise Retired Supreme Court Justice and current Ombudsman, CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES, shares 8 lessons on life and leadership as she approaches her retirement from the Office of the Ombudsman in July 2018


1. Lead by example.
The way she carries herself, how she lives her life has always been to me a paragon of good leadership. Never to cower in the face of public opinion, the way she presents herself suggests seriousness and self-control. An effervescent early bird, she is always one of the first to arrive at the office at 6:30 a.m. everyday. The fresh start is the boost of energy, which fuels her throughout the day. Her philosophy seems to be: in lieu of coffee, start early. Being around her, you can also tell that she enjoys the challenge of her work, and that work done well gives her a sense of purpose and fulfillment.

2. Learn from the great.
Wise people are pygmies on the shoulders of giants; they learn from the ones who came before them. Ombudsman Morales has a number of past mentors and leaders she looks up to for inspiration. One of them is former US President Barack Obama. I recall her enjoying his autobiography. Characteristically, she often quotes the words of the greats of history in her speeches because she finds wisdom in them.

3. Be your own person.
Her strong, dignified, and intimidating demeanor, I think, is intentional on her part, to make her purposely unapproachable. Throughout the years, she has accepted and held positions of great responsibility where being unapproachable is ideal. She does not like to be approached in order to be influenced or manipulated.

4. Study, study, study.
Ombudsman Morales seemed always updated and never out of the loop, both in law and in life. Whenever research has to be done for a case, she is always ahead of her staff, having studied cases and examined them thoroughly before they present their research to her. She catches how much her staff has studied and knows of a subject matter with her questions, which is why it was always important to be assiduous, calm, and ready to answer any question in her presence. I think her parents ingrained in her the habit of studiousness, such that whether it is about new technology coming soon, or case law, she always keeps abreast of the latest reports.

5. Stand your ground.
In the Office of the Ombudsman, hundreds of decisions have to be made on a daily basis. There comes a point after diligent study and discernment that one has to stick to one’s guns and decide on an action no matter the consequences. One thing I have to hand to Ombudsman Morales is that she is decisive and determined. In a position that would probably faze most people with the amount of life-altering decisions that have to be made, she sticks to her guns and stands her ground.

6. Let people bloom.
Ombudsman Morales spends a lot of time with her staff and likes to get to know each one personally. Most of those who have worked under her have gone on to bigger and brighter things with her full support. She is one to encourage growth and not stunt it, even if it means experiencing growing pains on both ends. She does not cling to the past, so when it’s time for farewells, she wishes you the best with a full heart and a warm, affectionate hug.

7.Persevere and overcome.
Ombudsman Morales has endured many hardships with grace and resilience. Many of us worked under her son Bert, who was her chief of staff in the Office of the Ombudsman and the Supreme Court. So, to learn of his passing away at 41 years old in October 2015 was painful. Bert was a rarity as a chief of staff; kind, caring, and without any airs. In fact, every new employee has his or her own story about how he or she did not know Bert was Ombudsman Morales’ son for months until some innocent conversation revealed this, to his/ her great surprise. With grit and a steady work ethic, Ombudsman Morales is able to pummel through the dark times and find hope in the two grandchildren under her care, Bert’s son, Ennio, and daughter, Cece, whom she both addressed when she was honored with the Ramon Magsaysay Award for her outstanding service in government, Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize, in 2016. Slogging through walls of legal cases in government since 1971 when she started at the Department of Justice as a Special Assistant, she has gone through six presidents in her 47 years of service.

8. Strength comes in many forms.
Ombudsman Morales can be very strict, but she can also be exceptionally kind. Known for being unyielding when attacked, she can also be fiercely loving. She is a loyal champion when she believes in you. One of her finest achievements was to have raised such a kind-hearted man in Bert. History, however, recognizes her for saying “yes” and rising to the occasion when it came calling.

Throughout the years, she has accepted and held positions of great responsibility where being unapproachable is ideal. She does not like to be approached in order to be influenced or manipulated.

The University of the Philippines, her alma mater, conferred on her the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, during the commencement exercises of the UP College of Law for the graduating class of 2016 at which she was the guest speaker. The conferment recognized her “28-year service to the judiciary unmarked by any accusation of impropriety,” and for being herself “the measure of integrity in government service” and “the face of courage and daring determination, of competence and independence, and one of resolutely intolerant of corruption.”

Ombudsman Carpio Morales was chosen as the Philippines’ 2016 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for restoring faith in the rule of law. In presenting the award, the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation board of trustees recognized “her moral courage and commitment to justice in REAPING RECOGNITION taking head-on one of the most intractable problems in the Philippines; promoting by her example of incorruptibility, diligence, vision and leadership, the highest ethical standards in public service.”

The Local Government Unit of Quezon City conferred on Ombudsman Carpio Morales the Tandang Sora Award in recognition of her ideals and virtues that mirror that of Filipino heroine Melchora Aquino who took the monicker Tandang Sora. She was cited for possessing the virtues of honesty, industry, service, word of honor, kindness, caring, and protectiveness. The award also recognized the Ombudsman’s dedication and untarnished record as a public servant.

Ombudsman Carpio Morales holds the distinction of being the first woman magistrate to administer the oath of office of a Philippine President.

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