MANILA, Philippines – The president of the biggest lawyers’ organization in the country said Chief Justice Renato Corona should resign if he does not submit himself to cross examination and answer questions regarding his wealth on Wednesday, May 23.
Roan Libarios, president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, told Rappler that Corona will “lose his moral ascendancy” if he does not submit to cross-examination.
“[Following the process] is part of the rule of law,” he said.
Corona took the witness stand in his own impeachment trial on Tuesday, May 22, delivered a two-hour long opening statement, then walked out despite repeated calls from presiding senator-judge Juan Ponce Enrile for him to come back. He later returned to the Senate session hall in a wheelchair; his lawyers explained he was in pain because of hypoglycemia.
Enrile threatened lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas he will order Corona’s statement stricken off the record if he does not submit himself to cross examination by prosecutors.
In his opening statement, Corona defended himself from allegations that he has $10 million to $12 million in bank deposits, reiterating that he “did not steal anything.” He also signed a waiver allowing banks to disclose his peso and dollar deposits, but said will only submit it if the 188 congressmen who signed the impeachment complaint against him and Sen. Franklin Drilon sign waivers too.
Libarios’ statement was a turnaround from his earlier pronouncements before the impeachment trial. He said then that Corona’s impeachment had a “chilling effect” on the judiciary, as it threatened the independence of the Supreme Court.
‘CJ should set example’
Dean Antonio La Vina of the Ateneo School of Government also called for Corona’s resignation, saying now is the best time for him to do it because it will be “in his own terms.”
“I think it is time now for Chief Justice Corona to resign. He will do himself and his family and supporters a big favor if he does that,” he said in his Twitter account.
La Vina added that Corona’s behavior in the trial tells a lot about his “moral fitness as a chief justice.”
Other deans of law schools echoed La Vina’s statement.
“He should have resigned a long time ago. What he did today at the trial was a total cop-out,” said Dean Jose Manuel Diokno of the De La Salle College of Law.
Dean Amado Valdez of the University of the East College of Law remarked, “He should set the tone for the judiciary… he should set an example.”
If Corona indeed resigns, La Vina said it won’t mean exemption from criminal liability. “The cases in the Ombudsman will now became criminal investigations and should lead to where it should lead.”
Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello, former congresswoman Risa Hontiveros and lawyer Emmanuel Santos have filed separate complaints against Corona before the Office of the Ombusman, seeking a probe into his alleged unexplained wealth. – Rappler.com