Corona accepts verdict, blames Aquino

Chief Justice Renato Corona accepted Tuesday the Senate impeachment court’s ruling on his case but blamed President Benigno Aquino III for his ouster.

The Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, voted 20-3 on Tuesday, removing the Chief Justice from office for committing culpable violation of the Constitution and betraying public trust. He was found guilty of not truthfully disclosing his wealth in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).

Corona’s lawyers expressed disbelief on the move, with lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas expecting half of the 20 senators who voted for the Chief Justice’s conviction were actually pushing for acquittal. He declined to reveal the names, however, but admitted they were caught flat-footed in Tuesday’s voting.
I am frustrated,” Cuevas told reporters.

Fellow defense lawyer Dennis Manalo had the same view, although he said they have no choice but to respect it.

“Actually, we were not anticipating such account but that’s how it goes, that’s how decisions are rendered. The Senate impeachment court is a collegial body and more than two thirds have indicated to convict the Chief Justice,” he told Sun.Star.

Corona, in a statement, said he is a victim of bad politics. He said he faced his impeachment with the hope that he would be granted justice in accordance with the law and Constitution amid the “malicious” allegations against him.

He reiterated his previous claims that President Aquino, his staunchest critic, would use all government means and resources to oust him from office and ruin his reputation.

“I am innocent of all the accusations against me. My conscience is clear, but bad politics prevails,” he said in vernacular.
Corona also urged the public to finally put to rest the issue of the impeachment for the sake of national unity.

“Ihinto na po natin ang pulitika ng personal na paninira. Supilin na po natin ang lason na dulot ng labis na kampi-kampihan, labis na pagkakawatak-watak, at hindi mapigilang poot at galit. Hindi po ito ang nararapat para sa ating bayan. Hindi po ito ang buod ng bansang Pilipinas. Panahon na upang isulong ang ating buhay bilang isang bansa,” he added.

Corona, meanwhile, thanked the three senator-judges who voted for his acquittal – Senators Joke Arroyo, Miriam Defensor Santiago and Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

He also begged forgiveness from his wife and family for dragging them into the picture in his quest to protect the independence of the Judiciary.

According to the Senate, the decision of the impeachment court is immediately executory and forecloses any appeal.

But Cuevas was non-committal when asked whether the defense panel will still appeal the guilty verdict.

“I don’t subscribe to the view that the ruling is immediately executory. We should have at least 10 or 15 days period. If we follow the rules, it’s not immediately executory. It’s not a matter of option but the right of the accused (to appeal his case),” he said.

Cuevas earlier said that going to the High Court is one of the options that the defense team may resort to once it renders an adverse judgment.

Meantime, Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, the next most senior and archrival of Corona in the Supreme Court, will sit as head of the judiciary in an acting capacity until Aquino appointed the country’s next top judge.

Aside from heading the 15-man tribunal, Carpio will also head the eight-member Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), a constitutional body that screens and gives recommendations to the President for vacant judicial slots.

For the chief justice post, the JBC has to open the nomination, after which it will submit a shortlist from which the President will choose Corona’s replacement. Under the Constitution, the President has 90 days to fill up the vacancy.

Asked if the President already has someone in mind to be the next Chief Justice, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the shortlist will have to come from the Judicial and Bar Council.
If Carpio is appointed permanent Chief Justice, an associate justice has to be appointed to complete the line-up in the tribunal that sits as a full court and in three divisions of five justices each.
Carpio founded the CVC law firm (now the Villaraza, Angangco, Marcelo and Cruz law offices), which is allied with the Aquino administration. The law firm is also representing Aquino’s vice presidential running mate, now Transportation Secretary Manuel Roxas II in the latter’s election protest against Vice President Jejomar Binay.

Corona earlier accused three men behind his impeachment — Aquino in retaliation for the Supreme Court ruling ordering the distribution of Hacienda Luisita sugar estate to farmers; Carpio for allegedly wanting the chief justice post; and Roxas for his political ambitions.

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