Chief Justice Renato Corona is the current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of thePhilippines. But he is facing a grave problem in relation to his high position in court, as he is facing impeachment. In this article, we will tackle about the CJ Corona Impeachment case and the latest developments about it, and also about the issues aboutCoronawitnessing for himself in the ongoing impeachment case.
The Corona Impeachment Case
But what is this impeachment case all about? Why is Chief Justice Corona being impeached? First chapter of the summary is that Renato Corona was appointed as new Chief Justice to replace the retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno. But the wayCoronawas put to the position was controversial, as it was via Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s appointment on days after the 2010 presidential elections. Arroyo should not have been legally allowed to appoint him as Chief Justice but the Supreme Court ruled that the president’s ban on appointments does not extend to the judiciary, and since then, the Supreme Court has been accused of ruling unfavorably of the Aquino administration regarding cases concerning Arroyo, which of course may have been a reason for the Aquinos to retaliate via the impeachment case filed against him.
Secondly, the hot issue about the Hacienda Luisita may also have been a major reason for his impeachment. Hacienda Luisita is a vast sugarcane plantation owned by the maternal relatives of the President Benigno Aquino III which are the Cojuancos. But due to unfair treatment of the hacienda owners to its farmer tenants, the hacienda have been decided by the Supreme Court to be bought by the government and be distributed its more than 6,000 farmer beneficiaries under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law. Chief Justice Corona and all other members of the court came up with a unanimous decision last April 24, 2012 to fully distribute the 4,335 hectares of land to its beneficiaries. The decision on which scheme to use for the distribution of the asset was decided on November 2011 and also announced its finality also on April 24, and the decision was a split 8-6 to use the 1989 value of the estate which is valued at 40,000 Pesos per hectare which is a total of 173 Million Pesos, and to fully distribute the land to all concerned beneficiaries but payment will be required first from all beneficiary tenants. The Cojuancos filed for reconsideration last December 2011 about the valuation order by the court, saying that the value of the hacienda should be pegged at its 2006 estate property value at 2.5 Million Pesos per hectare or a total of 9.75 Billion Pesos as the property value has risen since then due to the development of malls and other residential entities around the area, and that full land distribution should not be executed, but instead only stock options should be given to the beneficiaries. The filed reconsideration aims to benefit the Cojuancos as the government will pay them more money for the property and that they won’t have to give up total land distribution of the hacienda, but instead give only stock options to the beneficiaries, but the court lead by Corona turned down the reconsideration plea on the mentioned April 24 unanimous decision, which most probably irritated the Aquino administration, which may have triggered the regime to impeach Chief Justice Corona.
Thirdly, he had clearly failed to disclose his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net worth (SALN), which is legally required under the constitution upon his appointment as Chief Justice, which consequently led to a public uproar and controversy, and a clear violation or what legal terms would put it as betrayal of public trust.
These 3 may be the most major reasons behind why Chief Justice Renato Corona is being impeached. The impeachment case started on January 16, 2012, and the Senate received the prosecution and defense teams. The prosecution is headed by Niel Tupas, Jr., while the defense is lead by Serafin Cuevas. Each sided presented their cases and statements which have gone on for 34 days and since then was adjourned for the Lenten break.
Latest Developments of the Impeachment Trial
Day 34, March 22, 2012, is the latest day of this trial, and the summary of this is that the prosecution and defense talked about the Corona properties, and that Senator-Judge Loren Legarda asks Serafin Cuevaas about Corona’s SALN and asked if will he amend it by April 15 in response to having a truthful SALN content, and Cuevas responded that he has yet to ask Corona if he will indeed amend it. Lastly, the prosecution stood by their offer of evidence that Chief Justice Corona has 21 properties, while the defense insists of defending their statement aboutCoronahaving only 5.
Issue Behind Corona Witnessing for Himself in the Impeachment Trial
Now, one mingling issue is that whetherCoronashould testify on his own behalf by being his own witness. Throughout the case, the wife of Renato Corona, Cristina Corona, was the one who is testifying and taking the bullet on his behalf, and the prosecution including Deputy Speaker Tañada challengedCoronato take the stand instead of using his wife as a shield. But the defense said that Cristina’s testimonies hold valuable information about Chief Renato’s SALN, properties, and secret multi-million bank accounts, and that they won’t allowCoronato take the stand as it is deemed unnecessary as the prosecution has yet to prove anything.
Tañada said that Cristina’s testimonies will be essential to the case, but it will be better to let the Chief Justice himself respond to all the allegations filed against him. Again, the issue is that the prosecution still have no conclusive evidence presented to prove without any reasonable doubt that all accusations againstCoronaare true. Even Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, the impeachment court’s presiding officer, expressed opinion that Renato Corona himself will be in the best position to explain about the undeclared SALN, bank account and among others, but the defense refuses to put Renato on the stand as they demand more evidences and grounds from the prosecution. Though the defense claims that it will be a possibility of presenting him, but it should be decided carefully and unanimously by the whole defense team.
Currently, the defense is still adamant that there is indeed no need for the Chief Justice to take the witness stand for himself. One of the defense counsels, Tranquil Salvador III, said that the impeachment case should be based on evidence, and added that it will be up to the prosecution to present evidences and a “new twist” that may trigger the defense to finally present CJ Corona as witness for himself.
During the period of March 10-13, the Social Weather Stations (SWS) conducted a survey, and they concluded via their data that most adult Filipinos believed thatCoronakept hidden wealth, and that he intended to help former President Arroyo to flee the country and that he accepted special favors in office. Also, the survey concluded that 46% believed that people power should be used to oustCoronafrom his position should the Supreme Court decide to acquit him. Despite the negative results of the survey presented towards Corona and the defense, these are only opinions and not facts which may be used to further pressure the defense to defend itself and to finally force Corona to the stand to be his own witness.
Wrapping Things Up About the Trial
Come May 7, depending on what the prosecution will present, Coronamay some day be his own witness and take the stand. Normally, the accused should defend himself by taking the stand, but it should come in valid grounds and with corresponding evidences as it will be unfair to Coronato accuse and question him without these grounds and evidences. Let us all wait for the 35th day of this controversial impeachment trial, as the possible eventual scenario of Corona himself taking the witness stand will prove to be crucial to the case and will surely be worth seeing so stay tuned!
Abigail Ang is an aspiring writer and a former Backpacker. She is into almost all types of music. she also has a passion in singing and an interest in sports particularly Ultimate (Frisbee) and running. Abigail is also one of the editors of Interaksyon- The Online News Portal of TV5