MANILA — After 44 days of trial, the Senate impeachment court, in a 20-3 vote, found chief Justice Renato Corona guilty of the charge under Article II (nondisclosure of assets in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth) of the impeachment complaint.
On Tuesday, in announcing the guilty verdict of the impeachment court on Corona, presiding judge Jose Ponce Enrile did not mention the penalty prompting Romulo Makalintal to question the decision. But after a copy of the decision was sent to Corona, the decision mentions: “Wherefore, in accordance with Article XI Section 3 (7) of the Constitution, the penalty of removal from office and disqualification to hold any office under the Republic of the Philippines is hereby imposed upon respondent Chief Justice Renato C. Corona.”
Those who found the chief justice guilty were:
Edgardo Angara, Alan Peter Cayetano, Pia Cayetano, Franklin Drilon, Francis Escudero, Jinggoy Estrada, Teofisto Guingona III, Gregorio Honasan, Panfilo Lacson, Lito Lapid, Loren Legarda, Sergio Osmeña III, Francis Pangilinan, Aquilino ‘Koko’ Pimentel III, Ralph Recto, Ramon Revilla Jr., Vicente Sotto III, Antonio Trillanes IV and senate president/presiding judge Juan Ponce Enrile.
Those who voted for Corona’s acquittal were Joker Arroyo, Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos.
Public accountability, transparency, and the rule of law won in the Senate impeachment court’s decision on Tuesday to find the chief justice Renato Corona guilty, House prosecutors said.
Reaction after verdict
Prosecution team spokesperson Rep. Erin Tañada and Rep. Sonny Angara said the Senate’s decision that removes Corona from office marks a new start for the judiciary and will help the Aquino administration’s campaign against graft and corruption.
“This is the start of putting our republic back in order for we did not convict a man but rather we saved our institutions from grievous harm of corruption and betrayal of public trust,” Tañada said in a press statement.
“We showed our determination towards transparency and good governance with this verdict.” He said the Senate’s decision proves that the country is now “politically mature.”
Angara said Corona’s removal from office is only the beginning in efforts to ensure good governance and restore faith in the judiciary. Chief Justice Renato Corona on Tuesday lamented that “dirty politics” seemed to have prevailed when the Senate impeachment court voted to unseat him from the highest judicial post in the country.
However, in a three-page signed statement, Corona said he and his family were “unhappy” with the guilty verdict, but that they are willing to accept the decision. He thanked the three senator-judges who voted to acquit him.
Appeal Not Necessary
On Thursday, May 31, the former chief justice said he will not appeal the decision of the impeachment court. He was still in The Medical City undergoing medical treatment after suffering low blood sugar in the first day of his testimony at the impeachment court. “This impeachment is now a “closed chapter” in my life,” Corona said. His defense lawyers had mulled filing an appeal before the Supreme Court.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile had also warned the Supreme Court against defying the impeachment court’s ruling, saying the Senate had the sole power to hear and judge impeachment cases.
Corona’s rival in the SC, Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, took over as acting chief justice on Wednesday, a day after Corona’s removal from the high court.
Palace, House welcome Corona’s decision
Meantime, Malacañang and the members of the lower House welcomed Corona’s decision not to appeal the Senate impeachment court’s ruling.
“That is properly the period that ends the chapter of the Corona impeachment,” deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said. House Majority Leader Boyet Gonzales said Corona realized that he no longer holds sway over his former colleagues in the high tribunal.
“The fact that the SC, through a special en banc met yesterday and issued orders that practically demonstrated that he had already lost control of the SC and could no longer rely on his perceived allies, I’m sure, contributed to his decision. Nevertheless, salamat na rin at wala ng duda na final na conviction niya,” Gonzales said.
Members of the House prosecution team who took part in Corona’s impeachment trial said they are thankful for the former chief justice’s decision not to appeal his case.
“It would’ve engendered some uncertainty for what is and should be a certain and unappealable result. There is much work to be done and for many months, the country was glued to the drama of the trial. Now I would say the next challenge is to actually focus on the economy. Fighting corruption only gets you so far by providing a good foundation for growth, but we still have to build the proverbial structure: jobs, infrastructure, opportunities. The trial was just prologue, this should be the real business of the government,” Rep. Sonny Angara said.
“As far as the responsibility of the House under the Constitution is concerned, our role is finished,” Rep. Miro Quimbo said.
“We welcome the decision of former CJ Corona not to pursue an appeal to the SC. Former CJ Corona showed that he has accepted the decision and ready to move on. We may be in different camps on the issue of his impeachment but at least this act of former CJ Corona would show that he had the country’s interest in his mind,” Rep. Erin Tañada said.
Separation pay, benefits
House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said May 31 that ousted chief justice Renato Corona may receive separation pay and other benefits. He said forfeiture of these benefits is usually an accessory punishment imposable in a criminal case, such as when the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court convicts a corrupt public officer.
“I think he is entitled to separation and retirement benefits. Forfeiture of such benefits is not part of the penalyty imposed on him by the Senate impeachment court,” he said.