Philippine judge testifies at own graft trial

Chief justice, accused of shielding ex-president Gloria Arroyo from prosecution, lashes out at President Benigno Aquino.

    A senior Philippine judge accused of protecting former President Gloria Arroyo from prosecution on corruption charges has testified at his impeachment trial.

    Renato Corona, the chief justice who is also accused of amassing a personal level of wealth that is way above his salary scale, testified on Tuesday. He has denied the charges.

    Al Jazeera's Marga Ortigas, reporting from the capital Manila, said the trial had entered its 40th day and that Corona had been allowed to make an opening statement that lasted nearly half an hour.

    "He basically prayed before the nation. He addressed the Filipinos directly ... looking into the camera because he knew that this trial is being covered and splashed across all the media in the country live," she said.

    Corona asked people for understanding, saying all accusations against him were lies, said our correspondent.

    She said Corona turned the tables on the sitting president Benigno Aquino and his administration, saying they are the ones in "violation of due process".

    'Midnight appointments'

    Corona had previously led a rally of hundreds of court employees, including judges, to protest against the "end of judicial independence", in reference to the charges against him.

    Aquino has said the accusations by Corona against him are false and that he is only seeking to clean up the judiciary, said our correspondent.

    Last November, Arroyo, 64, was arrested on charges of rigging the 2007 senatorial elections and is now awaiting trial in a military hospital where she is being treated for what she says is a spinal illness.

    Arroyo installed Corona, her former chief of staff, to the top judicial post shortly before she stepped down as president in 2010.

    President Aquino has said the move ignored a constitutional ban on "midnight appointments" by outgoing leaders.

    Public opinion polls show Aquino enjoys overwhelming backing for his anti-graft efforts, though his critics and even some supporters say he has been employing unnecessarily bruising tactics.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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