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Corona convicted for failing to disclose assets

Posted on May 30, 2012

SENATORS YESTERDAY overwhelmingly voted to remove Chief Justice Renato C. Corona from office for violating the constitution and betraying the public trust, a historic decision seen as a huge success for President Benigno S. C. Aquino III’s anti-corruption campaign.

"With at least two-thirds of all the members of the Senate having pronounced the respondent guilty ... Renato C. Corona ... is hereby convicted," Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, presiding judge in the impeachment trial, declared.

Senator-judges, voting 20-3, ruled that Mr. Corona had failed to fully disclose his wealth in the annual Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) as required by the Constitution. The maximum penalty is removal from office, which Mr. Enrile, in an ambush interview after the trial concluded, said would apply.

The verdict also means Mr. Corona’s perpetual disqualification from public office, and opened him up to further criminal charges.

Senator-judges who rendered a "guilty" verdict were Edgardo J. Angara, Allan Peter S. Cayetano, Pilar Juliana "Pia" S. Cayetano, Franklin M. Drilon, Francis Joseph "Chiz" G. Escudero, Jose "Jinggoy" E. Estrada, Teofisto L. Guingona III, Gregorio B. Honasan II, Panfilo M. Lacson, Manuel "Lito" M. Lapid, Loren B. Legarda, Sergio R. Osmeña III, Francis "Kiko" N. Pangilinan, Aquilino Martin "Koko" D. L. Pimentel III, Ralph G. Recto, Ramon "Bong" B. Revilla, Jr., Vicente "Tito" C. Sotto III, Antonio F. Trillanes, Manuel B. Villar, and Mr. Enrile.

Dissenting were Joker P. Arroyo, Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Ferdinand "Bongbong" R. Marcos, Jr.

The verdict only involved Article 2 of the Articles of Impeachment, with senator-judges deciding not vote further on the charges of lack of integrity and partiality to former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Those in favor of the head magistrate’s removal said Mr. Corona should have declared peso and dollar accounts estimated at P80 million and $2.4 million, respectively. He had only declared a total P3.5 million in "cash and investments" as of his 2010 SALN.

The dissenting senator-judges said under-declaration of assets in the SALN was "not impeachable offense," taking the defense panel’s line that while Mr. Corona had made an error, this did not warrant his removal from office.

Mr. Corona, in a statement, said he was saddened but would accept the decision. He is currently in the Medical City hospital where he was taken after testifying at the Senate on Monday.

"Kung ito po ang ikabubuti ng ating bayan, tinatanggap ko na po ang kalbaryong aming pinagdaanan. (If it’s for the welfare of country, I will accept this calvary we are treading)," he said.

Malacanãng said Mr. Corona’s conviction meant the country’s institutions "have been strengthened and have been proven to work."

"The verdict of the Senate is a step forward in terms of restoring public confidence in our courts, and trust in the members of the judiciary," Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail D. Valte said, reading a statement from Mr. Aquino.

The president has 90 days to fill the vacancy, Ms. Valte said, with a shortlist needing to be submitted by the Judicial Bar Council.

Mr. Corona was impeached by 188 members of the House of Representatives on Dec. 12 last year. The Senate convened as an impeachment court on Dec. 14, 2011 and the trial took 44 days.

His impeachment is the first to be resolved in the country. That of President Joseph E. Estrada in 2000-2001 was cut short after prosecutors walked out. Mr. Estrada was later ousted via a people power revolt. -- A. S. O. Alegado with reports from A. E. Barrameda and N. M. Gonzales

The Impeachment of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona

May 12, 2010

Former president now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (2nd district) appointed Associate Justice Renato C. Corona to replace Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno who was to retire in five days, defying a constitutional ban on appointments during an election period. Then senator Benigno S. C. Aquino III, a leading presidential contender, said Mrs. Arroyo should “recognize the new government’s right to appoint the next chief justice.�

May 17, 2010

Mr. Corona took his oath as new chief justice.

June 30, 2010

President Aquino was sworn into office by then Associate Justice now Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, breaking the tradition of swearing in before the chief justice.

July 5, 2011

The Supreme Court (SC) scrapped the stock distribution option and instead ordered a referendum among farm-worker beneficiaries for the distribution of lands in Hacienda Luisita, Inc. (HLI), a sugar estate in Tarlac owned by the family of Mr. Aquino. Mr. Corona, in a dissenting opinion, argued that the option to give farmers shares of stock instead of land is unconstitutional.

Nov. 14, 2011

Mrs. Arroyo asked the SC to declare as unconstitutional a decision of the Justice department that denied her request to travel abroad for medical treatment.

Nov. 22, 2011

The SC, on an appeal, ordered that the 4,916-hectare estate of HLI be distributed to the 6,296 farm-worker beneficiaries.

Dec. 5, 2011

Mr. Aquino questioned Mr. Corona’s impartiality to Mrs. Arroyo during the National Criminal Justice Summit at the Manila Hotel. Both were guests at the same event.

Dec. 12, 2011

A total of 188 congressmen signed the impeachment complaint against Mr. Corona — more than the required one-third vote of the 284-member House of Representatives — over allegations of betrayal of public trust, culpable violation of the Constitution and graft and corruption.

Dec. 13, 2012

The House transmitted the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate.

Dec. 14, 2012

The Senate convenes as Impeachment Court.

Jan. 16, 2012

Mr. Corona pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Jan. 18, 2012

Enriquetta Esguerra-Vidal, SC clerk of court, turned over to the court Mr. Corona’s Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) from 2002 to 2010.

Jan. 25, 2012

Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim S. Jacinto-Henares testified that the declared income of Mr. Corona and wife, Cristina, did not match records of tax payments. But presentations related to ill-gotten wealth were disallowed by the court.

Feb. 6, 2012

The court granted the subpoena of documents on bank accounts of Mr. Corona at Philippine Savings Bank and Bank of the Philippine Islands.

Feb. 9, 2012

The SC stopped the Impeachment Court from compelling the disclosure of dollar accounts of Mr. Corona.

Feb. 13, 2012

The Impeachment Court voted to comply with the SC temporary restraining order on examining Mr. Corona’s dollar accounts.

Feb. 23, 2012

Justice Secretary Leila M. de Lima claimed that based on a dissenting opinion of Associate Justice Ma. Lourdes P. A. Sereno, Mr. Corona influenced the stay order on the travel ban on Mrs. Arroyo.

Feb. 28, 2012

The prosecution withdrew five of the eight Articles of Impeachment against Mr. Corona. The remaining complaints were: failure to disclose the true SALN (Article 2), lack of integrity (Article 3) and partiality to Mrs. Arroyo (Article 7).

March 21, 201

The defense panel said Mr. Corona owns only five out of the 45 real estate properties originally listed by the Land Registration Authority as claimed by the prosecutors.

April 25, 2012

The SC affirmed a decision that ordered the distribution of the Cojuangco-owned sugar estate to farm-worker beneficiaries.

May 14, 2012

Citing a report from the Anti-Money Laundering Council, Ms. Carpio-Morales alleged that Mr. Corona had kept 82 dollar accounts worth $10 million in transactional balances.

May 22, 2012

Mr. Corona told the Impeachment Court that he has no has 82 dollar accounts, and that he only keeps four dollar deposit accounts and three peso deposit accounts. He maintained that he is not required to disclose his dollar accounts pursuant Republic Act (RA) No. 6426 or the Foreign Currency Deposit Act. Mr. Corona claimed the plot against him was in retaliation for the SC ruling on HLI. After his testimony, the Chief Justice was rushed to The Medical City in Pasig City for low blood sugar.

May 25, 2012

After signing a medical waiver, Mr. Corona returned to the Impeachment Court to apologize. He admitted having a total of P80 million in peso accounts and $2.4 million in foreign currency deposits. The peso accounts were not declared in his SALN as these are commingled funds that include proceeds from the sale of properties owned by his wife’s family business and “other family money.� He cited RA 6426 for not declaring dollar accounts in the SALN.

May 28

The Impeachment Court heard the closing arguments of the prosecution and defense panels.

May 29

The court renders a verdict.

(Sources: BusinessWorld Archives/