Stop the impeach trial?

SUPREME Court Chief Justice Renato Corona told newsmen and supporters before the impeachment trial began that he considered himself lucky and privileged to undergo the process because it will give him the opportunity to prove his innocence and yet, inexplicably, his lawyers tirelessly continue to try to find ways to prevent the presentation of evidence against him in an apparent bid to stop the on-going trial.

The most recent of these attempts was when they petitioned Corona’s colleagues in the SC to issue a temporary restraining order against a directive of the Impeachment Court allowing the presentation of his foreign currency account deposits. They also asked the high tribunal to stop the on-going impeachment trial.

In response, the SC issued a TRO against the presentation of their chief’s foreign savings account but for the moment has kept mum on the petition to stop his trial. It seems that the defense lawyers are really hell bent on precipitating a constitutional crisis.

Ordinary folks like us are at a loss why Corona, despite his impassioned profession of innocence, would want to suppress the presentation of his bank accounts and other evidence and ultimately stop the trial. He has nothing to worry since according to him he is innocent.

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Corona, before the start of the impeachment trial, said he would like to undergo trial to show his innocence but now he wanted to stop it. He said he only owns five properties but according to Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas, the prosecution was able to show that the impeached chief justice owned 18 properties and six parking lots or a total of 24 properties. The prosecution earlier claimed Corona has 45 properties but had to revise the number for failure to prove their claims.

The Corona led SC is strict in implementing the Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Networth law as two employees of the municipality of Naga, Cebu (Rosalio Galeos and Paulino Ong) found out last year after they were meted a combined total of 18-year and six month imprisonment by the high court for several instances of untruthful entries in their SALN form.

The prosecution in the on-going impeachment trial claimed it was able to show that the chief justice himself has some questionable entries on his SALN.

Curiously, Corona’s reliance on technicalities as a defense for his alleged questionable entries on his SALN before the impeachment court is quite similar to what Galeos and Ong tried.

Corona said he did not steal from anyone but the prosecution said he has yet to explain how he and his wife were able to buy expensive properties. He also has yet to explain the source of his multimillion pesos in several back accounts.

According to Rule 5.04 of the Code of Judicial Conduct “a judge or any immediate member of the family shall not accept a gift, bequest, factor or load from anyone except as may be allowed by law” and yet Corona, according to former Sen. Rene Saguisag, is engaging the services of his lawyers for free. He noted that when US President Bill Clinton was impeached he paid his lawyers.

Furthermore a news report aired by ABS-CBN Channel 2 reporter Linda Jumilla claimed Corona has accepted hefty discounts (around P10 million) from a real estate developer that has a pending case before the SC.

The law on judicial conduct is clear when it says “a judge should be the embodiment of competence, integrity and independence.”

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