In a boost for Philippines President Benigno Aquino III’s anti-graft campaign, senators have fired Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona for not declaring US2.4m in bank accounts.
The senators, led by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, voted 20-3 for his ouster. They insisted that under the Constitution, Corona should have made a full declaration of assets. Lawyers for the defence countered that the top judge should be protected under banking secrecy laws.
Corona had argued that he had made his foreign exchange wealth from the time when he was a student.(Sounds familiar, ya.)
The impeachment proceedings, televised ‘live’, had gripped the country over several months. In a country where corruption is rampant, Filipinos were glued to the impeachment proceedings like it was some kind of reality TV show. The proceedings, spiced with emotional outbursts, intrigue and sub-plots, provided a fascinating glimpse of the machinations of power and justice.
Corona was a ‘midnight appointment’ by Aquino’s predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, just before she left office. She is now under ‘hospital arrest’ in connection with a vote-rigging case after an abortive bid to leave the country, ostensibly for medical treatment.
It remains to be seen who will succeed Corona.
The decision to sack the top judge for failing to fully declare assets sends a powerful message to less-than-straight judges everywhere, not just those in the Philippines.