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Corona convicted

(Updated 7:30 p.m.) - Voting 20-3, the Senate sitting as the impeachment court convicted Chief Justice Renato Corona for betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Philippine Constitution.
The court ruled that Corona was guilty of Article II of the impeachment complaint: the chief magistrate did not fully disclose his assets in his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).
"The Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, having tried Renato C. Corona, chief justice of the Supreme Court, upon three articles of impeachment charged against him by the House of Representatives, by a guilty vote of 20 senators representing at least two-thirds of all the members of the Senate, has found him guilty of the charge under Article II of the said articles of impeachment,” Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, presiding officer of the impeachment court, declared on the last day of the trial.
“Now therefore, be it adjudged that Renato C. Corona is hereby convicted of the charge against him in Article II of the articles of impeachment," Enrile declared, expressing the majority verdict of the 23-man Senate.

The following senators voted to convict Corona:
  1. Edgardo Angara
  2. Alan Peter Cayetano
  3. Pia Cayetano
  4. Franklin Drilon
  5. Francis Escudero
  6. Jinggoy Estrada
  7. Teofisto Guingona III
  8. Gregorio Honasan II
  9. Panfilo Lacson
  10. Lito Lapid
  11. Loren Legarda
  12. Sergio Osmeña III
  13. Francis Pangilinan
  14. Aqulino "Koko" Pimentel III
  15. Ralph Recto
  16. Ramon Bong Revilla Jr. 
  17. Vicente Sotto III
  18. Antonio Trillanes IV
  19. Manuel Villar
  20. Juan Ponce Enrile
Meanwhile, the following lawmakers voted to acquit the chief justice:
  1. Joker Arroyo
  2. Miriam Defensor-Santiago
  3. Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
Most of the senators cited Corona's admission that he has $2.4 million and P80 million that he did not declare in his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth as their main reason for finding him guilty for an impeachable offense.

Enrile did not specify the penalty for Corona, but Marcos told reporters after the trial, "Maliwanag sa aming lahat na it will be removal from office."

The impeachment court has formally closed the case.

According to the Constitution, “judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than removal from office and disqualification to hold any office under the Republic of the Philippines.”
The verdict came at the end of a grueling five-month trial that fixated the nation, with scenes of dramatic flare-ups and surprising revelations spicing up weekday television viewing and Internet livestreaming for media watchers.
Corona’s conviction is likely to be seen as a triumph for President Benigno Aquino III, who has never fully recognized Corona's appointment as chief justice by then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo a few weeks before she stepped down in 2010.

According to a Reuters report, the ruling is likely to be welcomed by investors who felt the long trial was distracting the government from addressing policy matters just when the country is seeing a resurgence of interest in its long-underperforming economy.
"The effect is clear, it will be a boost to the anti-corruption campaign of the president, it will also be a big boost to his support base," Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms in Manila, told Reuters.
Aquino’s allies at the lower house impeached Corona in December last year by virtue of Section 3 (1), Article XI in the 1987 Constitution, which provides that the House of Representatives shall have the exclusive power to initiate all cases of impeachment. A total of 188 legislators signed the articles of impeachment against Corona.
The case was immediately transmitted to the Senate, which has the sole power to try and decide all cases of impeachment under Section 3 (6) of the Constitution. A two-thirds vote from the Senate, in this case 16 out of its 23 members, is needed to convict any impeachable official.
The senator-judges
The defense panel had earlier asked Drilon and Angara to inhibit from the trial, citing bias and alleged conflict of interest, but both senators refused to heed the request.
Drilon, Pangilinan, Recto, and Guingona are members of the administration's Liberal Party, which is headed by Aquino.
Osmeña and Escudero, although independent, are also known supporters of the administration. On the other hand, Trillanes owes his freedom to the President for granting him amnesty and obtained his freedom from years of detention.
Escudero, Legarda, Pimentel, Trillanes, Cayetano, and Honasan are expected to seek re-
election next year, when their terms expire.

The terms of Angara, Arroyo, Lacson, Pangilinan, and Villar are also expiring next year, but they cannot seek reelection as they are already on their second terms.
The impeachment complaint
The House of Representatives impeached Corona last December 12 for alleged graft and corruption, culpable violation of the Constitution, and betrayal of public trust.
The Articles of Impeachment were transmitted the following day to the Senate, which convened as an impeachment court on December 14.
The impeachment trial began last January 16, when the Senate began hearing evidence on
the following Articles of Impeachment:
Article I: Partiality of Corona to Mrs. Arroyo in Supreme Court decisions
Article II: Non-disclosure of properties in Corona’s SALN
Article III: Lack of probity, integrity, and independence in the FASAP vs. PAL case
Article IV: Irregularities in the issuance of the status quo ante order on the impeachment proceedings of former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez
Article V: Gerrymandering in the creation of 16 new cities and the declaration of Dinagat Island as a province)
Article VI: Improper investigation of Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo’s plagiarism case
Article VII: Irregularities in the issuance of a temporary restraining order for Mrs. Arroyo during her attempt to leave the country last November
Article VIII: Failure and refusal to account for the Judiciary Development Fund and Special Allowance for the Judiciary
However, the prosecution team later decided to rest its case and drop Articles I, IV, V, VI, and VIII.
According to the Senate impeachment rules, the senators shall vote on each of the Articles of Impeachment. If the vote of two-thirds of all the members is sustained on any of the articles, then the accused shall be convicted.
Corona’s properties: From 45 to 21 to five
Much of the trial revolved around Article II, which accuses Corona of failing to publicly and properly disclose the extent of his assets in his SALN.
The prosecutors asked the Senate to subpoena members of the Corona family in connection with 45 pieces of real estate in the cities of Makati, Parañaque, Marikina, Taguig, and in Quezon City.
However, the prosecution team later denied claiming that Corona owned 45 properties, saying the figure was merely based on a list provided by the Land Registration Authority.
In the formal offer of evidence, the prosecution accused Corona of owning 21 properties, and said many of these are not declared in his SALN.
But the defense team and Corona maintained that he only owns five properties, and all are declared in his SALN. His lawyers also presented witnesses to prove that the other 15 properties have been sold or are actually owned by other people.
The 'small lady' and Corona's bank accounts
The prosecution team also asked the Senate to subpoena documentary evidence in connection with Corona's alleged undeclared dollar accounts.
They made the request after Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, one of the prosecutors, claimed that a “small lady” handed over records from the Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank) that supposedly showed Corona having $700,000 in deposits.
However, the manager of PSBank-Katipunan said the records were fake and did not come from them. She also revealed that Quezon City Rep. Jorge Banal, a member of the prosecution’s secretariat, had asked for her help in authenticating the same documents.
The controversy prompted PSBank to seek the help of the high court in preventing the Senate from examining the dollar accounts, citing Republic Act 6426 or the Foreign Currency Deposit Act. The SC issued a temporary restraining order that the Senate voted to follow, putting a lid on Corona’s dollar records.
Ombudsman's testimony
When the trial resumed this month after the congressional recess, the issue on the dollar accounts was revived when Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales asked the chief justice to respond to complaints from civil society groups and explain how he managed to accumulate millions of dollars despite his modest government salary.
Saying the move was part of a well-orchestrated plan to discredit Corona, defense lawyers asked the Senate to summon Morales to the witness stand. The move appears to have backfired, with Morales presenting a report from the Anti-Money Laundering Council that showed at least $10 million in transactional balances in 82 dollar accounts of Corona.
Last week, Corona branded the Ombudsman a liar when he finally took the witness stand, but he did admit having four dollar accounts containing around $2.4 million. He said the money came from dollar investments that grew over the years, and explained that he did not declare the cash in his SALN because it is covered by the secrecy clause in the Foreign Currency Deposit Act.
Corona also admitted that he has P80 million in three peso accounts, which he also did not declare because they were commingled funds from his mother and his children.
Copies of Corona’s SALNs from 2003 to 2011 showed that he only declared between P2.5 million to P3.5 million in cash assets.
(Click here for a summary of the evidence presented during the impeachment trial)
Drama in the courtroom
For most viewers, however, the trial will be remembered for its dramatic scenes. And no doubt, many of them will feature Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, whose tirades often livened up the boring proceedings.
There was Harvey Keh of the Kaya Natin! Movement, whom she admonished for giving Enrile an envelope containing Corona's alleged bank records from unverified and anonymous sources.
Santiago also had a run-in with Vitaliano Aguirre II, a former private prosecutor, who covered his ears in full view of the public while the senator was speaking at the trial.
And then there was the side show involving the long-running conflict between Corona's wife Cristina and her relatives on the Basa side. The family feud came to public attention after the chief justice declared an P11-million loan from the Basa Guidote Enterprises Inc in his SALN.
Last week, the Corona family was seen on live television reconciling with the Basa in a tearful display of hugs and kisses.
But the most controversial scene in the trial was the surprising sight of Corona abruptly rising from the witness stand and walking out of the Senate session hall without the court's permission after delivering his three-hour testimony last week.
Corona’s lawyers attributed the hasty departure to a bout of hypoglycemia, and the chief justice was brought to the Medical City after his appearance at the Senate.
Three days later, Corona returned and apologized to the Senate, and the defense team rested its case.
—With a report from Reuters/RSJ/YA/KG/VS, GMA News