The Philippine Senate voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to remove Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona from his post after finding him guilty of failing to declare all his wealth as required under the country's constitution.
According to local media, some 20 of the 23 Senators had found Corona guilty of betraying public trust and violating the constitution by failing to declare $2.4 million in foreign currency deposits. Notably, only a two-third majority was needed to impeach the chief justice.
Incidentally, Corona is the first Supreme Court chief justice to be impeached in the Philippines. His conviction after a nearly five-month trial marks a significant victory for President Benigno Aquino's anti-corruption campaign.
During the trial, Corona had admitted his failure to declare $2.4 million in assets, but insisted that his actions were allowed by a law on secrecy of foreign currencies. He also argued that the offense, caused by his misinterpretation of the law, was not serious enough for impeachment.
Under Philippine law, it is mandatory for all senior government officials to declare their assets, liabilities and net worth each year to ensure that they are not benefiting illegally by misusing their positions.
Corona was appointed as the country's top judge by former President Gloria Arroyo before her term in office ended. But his appointment was questioned by President Aquino, who succeeded Arroyo. Ever since his landslide election victory in 2010, Aquino has been accusing Corona of blocking corruption investigations against Arroyo.
In addition to the charges of failing to declare assets, Corona was also accused of attempting to protect Arroyo by ruling that she could leave the country last year despite a government ban on her overseas travel, as well as failing to meet the standards expected of a judge. But no verdict on those charges was delivered after the Senators convicted Corona of failing to declare his assets.
Corona maintained his innocence even after Tuesday's verdict, and said he was ready to accept his fate "if this is for the public good". Meanwhile, Corona's lawyers suggested that they might challenge the conviction in the Supreme Court.
by RTT Staff Writer
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