The Philippine Senate gave the chief justice of the country’s Supreme Court, Renato Corona, until May 25 to return to his impeachment trial after he walked out yesterday and checked into a hospital.
Corona, 63, will stay in the hospital for 48 hours to monitor his heart, defense lawyer Serafin Cuevas told the Senate tribunal today. The judge left his trial yesterday after declaring that the charges against him, including an allegation that he stashed away $12 million in 82 bank accounts, were “pure lies” fabricated by President Benigno Aquino.
Aquino says ousting Corona is a crucial step in an anti-corruption campaign that has seen the government pursue charges against former President Gloria Arroyo, who faces allegations of election rigging. The Senate is unlikely to acquit Corona, said Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform.
“I doubt any senator will endanger his legacy or the possibility of being re-elected by voting to acquit the chief justice,” Casiple said in a phone interview.
The prosecution and defense are expected to deliver closing arguments May 28, and the Senate will vote on the case by May 29 at the latest, with or without Corona’s appearance, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said today.
Appointed in 2002
Arroyo appointed Corona to the Supreme Court in 2002 and promoted him to be the country’s top judge a month before her term ended in 2010. Before his trial, Corona vowed to remain in office and accused Aquino of undermining democracy by trying to appoint his own magistrates to the court.
The House of Representatives impeached Corona in December, paving the way for his trial in the Senate. Aquino needs 16 votes from the 23-member Senate to secure a conviction.
“I condemn the trampling of my rights and the constitution and its ill effects on our democracy,” Corona told the Senate yesterday. He denied stealing government money and said his wealth came from years of hard work.
Defense lawyers put Corona on the witness stand after Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales testified last week that he failed to declare as much as $12 million held in bank accounts.
Corona told the Senate yesterday he would disclose all his accounts if congressional leaders did the same. He then rushed out, returning later in a wheelchair after being ordered back to the witness stand.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Corona “squandered the opportunity” to clear his name.
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