(UPDATE6) After 43 trial days and hundreds of grueling hours of hearing, the Senate sitting as impeachment court have declared Chief Justice Renato Corona guilty.
An overwhelming majority of Senators, 20-3, voted for the removal of Corona from office, most of them noting that the top magistrate no longer deserves his post. This makes Corona the first government official to be convicted by an impeachment court.
Senators Edgardo Angara, Alan Peter Cayetano and Pia Cayetano, Franklin Drilon, Francis Escudero, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, TG Guingona, Gringo Honasan, Panfilo Lacson, Lito Lapid, Loren Legarda, Sergio Osmena III, Kiko Pangilinan, and Koko Pimentel, Ralph Recto, Bong Revilla, Tito Sotto, and Antonio Trillanes, Manny Villar, and presiding officer Juan Ponce Enrile all have voted for Corona’s conviction.
Senators Joker Arroyo, Miriam Santiago, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., meanwhile voted for Corona’s acquittal.
“The Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, having tried Chief Justice Renato Corona, upon three articles of impeachment charged against him by the House of Representatives, by a guilty vote of 20 senators, has found him guilty of the charge under Article II.
“Now therefore, be it adjudged that Renato Corona, is hereby convicted of the charge against him in Article II of the Articles of impeachment, so ordered,” Enrile added.
Enrile also said as he explained his vote, “there is deliberate act of excluding substantial assets.”
“This is not justice, political or legal. Certainly not the law..it is only naked power, as it was in 1972,” however said Arroyo as he defended his vote.
Each senator was given two minutes to explain their votes while as presiding officer, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile was last to vote.
Corona was impeached by the House of Representatives in December after 188 congressmen signed the impeachment complaint.
From the original eight, the prosecution team reduced its complaint to three articles of impeachment.
Article II: Non-inclusion of assets in SALN
Deemed as the prosecution’s strongest case, Article II of the impeachment complaint accuses Corona of inaccurately declaring his assets, including peso and dollar deposits and real estate properties.
In his 2010 statement of assets, liabilities and net worth, Corona declared “cash and investments” amounting to P3.5 million.
The prosecution team presented bank managers of the Bank of Philippine Islands and Philippine Savings Bank who testified that Corona has at least P31 million peso deposits.
The defense team, on the other hand, presented Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales as hostile witness who accused the chief justice of having $10-million deposits, citing transaction records from the Anti-Money Laundering Council report.
But Corona refuted these and claimed that he has a combined peso and dollar accounts only worth P185 million.
He said he did not declare his dollar deposits worth $2.4 million or around P105 million because of the confidentiality guaranteed by the banking secrecy and foreign currency deposit units laws.
As for the P80-million peso accounts, Corona said they are commingled funds that he does not solely own. These accounts contain the expropriation proceeds of the sale of the lot owned by his wife’s company, Basa Guidote Enterprises Inc., the common funds from his late mother, and some savings of his children.
Meanwhile, Corona declared five real properties in his SALN including a house and lot in Quezon City and four condominium units.
The chief justice, however, allegedly owns various properties under the name of his children, who, the prosecution said, have questionable capacity to acquire posh properties.
Article III: Flip-flopping decision
In Article 3, the prosecution panel intended to cast doubt on Corona’s competence, integrity, probity, and independence as a chief justice following the Supreme Court’s flip-flopping decision in the case between the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines (FASAP) and the Philippine Airlines (PAL).
The prosecution presented FASAP President Roberto Anduiza to testify that then Associate Justice Corona was responsible for the recall of the SC ruling in favor of the alleged illegally retrenched 1,400 PAL flight attendants.
PAL Vice President for Sales Exequiel Javier also took the witness stand to expose the alleged perks and special privileges that Corona received, including a platinum card that gave him unlimited top class courtesy travel, which the prosecutors believe motivated Corona to rule in favor of PAL.
However, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile stopped the prosecution from presenting Javier as he pointed out that the prosecution never accused the chief justice of receiving favors and gifts in the articles of impeachment.
Meanwhile, the defense was not able to present evidence to refute the allegations due to time constraint.
Corona said he was supposed to explain the issue in his narrative testimony but his poor health prevented him from doing so.
Article VII: The Corona-Arroyo affair
Article VII emphasizes Corona’s ties to former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who named him chief justice in May 2010.
The prosecution presented Justice Secretary Leila De Lima to prove that Corona played a special role to allow the Arroyo couple to escape electoral sabotage charges.
The SC issued a temporary restraining order on a government-issued travel ban against Arroyo, who said was leaving the country to seek medical treatment, but the Department of Justice ordered airport authorities to defy the SC order. The former president now Pampanga representative is now under hospital arrest.
De Lima cited incidents mentioned in the dissenting opinion of Associate Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno which the justice secretary said clearly showed that Corona was acting in favor of Arroyo.
The impeachment court, however, ruled De Lima’s testimonies as hearsay since she was not present during the SC’s discussion of the TRO and merely reading Sereno’s dissenting opinion.
The prosecution wanted Sereno to testify but the Senate refused to issue a subpoena.
Corona said his explanation on this accusation was also part of his testimony but he was forced to cut it short as he was not feeling well.
While the senator-judges will decide on three articles of impeachment, the prosecution and defense teams decided to focus their closing statements on Article II of the impeachment complaint.
The prosecutors said they have strongly proved that Corona is “morally unfit” to remain as chief justice since he lied about his SALN to conceal his wealth.
The defense, on the other hand, insisted that the non-disclosure of some of Corona’s accounts does not constitute an impeachable offense as he did it in “good faith.”