Philippine Chief Justice Renato Corona was admitted to the intensive care unit of a Manila hospital today, interrupting his impeachment trial.
Corona was advised to stay in the Medical City hospital for 48 hours over fears that he could suffer a heart attack, DZRH Radio reported, citing a cardiologist at the hospital. He had walked out of his Senate 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 has said ousting Corona is a crucial step in an anti-corruption campaign that also saw the government pursue charges against former President Gloria Arroyo, who is under hospital arrest on allegations that she rigged elections during her nine years in power. Securing a conviction of Corona in the Senate may test Aquino’s political clout since he began the campaign.
An acquittal “will mean Aquino is a weak president and does not have influence on the other government branches, the Senate particularly,” Benito Lim, a political science professor at the Ateneo de Manila University, said in a telephone interview in Manila.
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. He denied stealing government money and said his wealth came from years of hard work.
At the close of his two-hour opening statement, Corona signed a waiver allowing access to his peso and dollar accounts. He said he would submit it to the court if the 188 congressmen who had impeached him and one senator-judge did the same. He then rushed out, returning later in a wheelchair after being ordered back to the witness stand.
“I will not allow anyone to disrespect this court,” Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said. The court will disregard Corona’s testimony and rule on the case if he fails to return today, Enrile said yesterday.
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.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Corona “squandered the opportunity” to clear his name.
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