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Philippine senate to decide top judge's fate
Renato Corona could be removed if found guilty in politically charged trial of corruption and failing to declare wealth.
Last Modified: 29 May 2012 09:59
Justice Corona has denounced the case against him, saying it is not backed by evidence [Reuters]

The fate of a senior Phillipine judge accused of corruption and failing to declare his wealth is about to be decided, as senators vote to sack him if found guilty on one of the charges.

Renato Corona, the first Philippine supreme court chief justice to stand an impeachment trial, is accused of hiding millions of dollars in assets, lack of integrity and amassing a fortune way above the limits of his salary.

But the 63-year-old denied concealing 45 properties and millions in assets when he took the witness stand last week.

Corona also denounced the case which Benigno Aquino, the current president, sees as key to rooting out corruption.

"Why is this administration so mad at me?" he said in a statement last week. "This case was filed without evidence. They broke all laws to fish evidence against me."

Although Corona faces the prospect of being removed from his position if found guilty, the senate has said he could also be censured, fined or suspended.

Corona's impeachment trial has been closely watched, as it involves former president Gloria Arroyo whom Aquino accuses of illegally appointing Corona just before she stepped down allegedly to protect her from prosecution.

Arroyo is now in detention while separately being tried for vote-rigging.

Al Jazeera's Marga Ortigas, reporting from the capital Manila, said: "All 23 senators will cast their vote publicly - and have two minutes to justify it."

She said there were three articles of impeachment filed against Corona and that two-thirds of the vote - or 16 senators - was necessary to convict him.

"If he is found guilty of the first article, voting on the other two articles will no longer be necessary. If guilty, he will be removed from his post - and no longer be allowed to ever serve in public office."

Pervasive levels

The current president was elected in 2010 on a platform to end corruption, which he claimed reached pervasive levels during his predecessor Arroyo's nearly 10-year rule.

Aquino is confident Corona will be ousted, Abigail Valte, his spokeswoman, said on Monday, when prosecutors from the House of Representatives and Corona's lawyers made their closing arguments after a four-month trial.

"Based on the evidence and the admissions that have been given, it is a strong case," Valte said.

But even if Corona is acquitted and gets to keep his job, the president will abide by the ruling, she added.

Corona's lawyers said he reserved the right to bring the case to the Supreme Court if found guilty. Legal observers said if he was ordered to step down but refused pending an appeal, it could lead to a constitutional crisis.

Corona had declared a net worth in 2010 of $530,000. 

His lawyers said he has not committed any crime that would be grounds for impeachment, such as treason, bribery, or corruption.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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