Corona’s defenders: Life goes on

Natashya Gutierrez

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Defense lawyers of dismissed chief justice Renato Corona admit that the high-profile trial boosted their careers

IN CORONA'S DEFENSE. The defense panel of Chief Justice Renato Corona consisted of a team of seasoned lawyers. Photo by Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Over a year ago, a group of skilled, talented and highly-paid defense lawyers gathered together to defend a man accused of committing graft and corruption, culpable violation of the Constitution and betraying public trust.

They were professors, deans, advocates and former government officials, who studied in some of the best law schools here and abroad.

But despite the powerhouse panel, former chief justice Renato Corona became, on May 29, 2012, the first public official to be convicted after a full impeachment trial

One year later, life goes on for the seasoned lawyers who took center stage during Corona’s trial. Dennis Manalo, one of the defense counsels, said the defense team is still in touch with each other.

The downfall of their client did not bring down their careers. In fact, the defense continued where they left off — if not several steps further.

Serafin Cuevas

LEAD COUNSEL. Former Supreme Court Justice Serafin Cuevas impressed the nation with his sharp wit despite his age. Photo by Rappler

Former Supreme Court Justice Serafin Cuevas, who served as the lead defense counsel of Corona, continues to handle big clients. A month after the end of the trial, the 84-year-old lawyer, who stood out for his quick wit and sharp memory, bagged a lifetime achievement award from the University of the Philippines Alumni Association.

Tranquil Salvador

One of the spokespersons of the defense panel, Tranquil Salvador, continues to teach at the Ateneo Law School, University of the Philippines (UP) Law, Pamantaan ng Lungsod ng Maynila Law, and Centro Escolar University (CEU) Law. Salvador is now a member of the Codification Committee of the Rules on Civil Procedure and hosts a radio segment “Legal 101” and “Legally Yours, Tranquil.”

He continues to practice and is handling more cases. Among his high-profile clients are suspended Cebu governor and congresswoman-elect Gwen Garcia, the International Maketing Group, Nissei of Japan, and aircraft manufacturer Cessna.

Salvador said the trial has given him “more opportunities in all aspects of my legal practice.”

Dennis Manalo

ALL SMILES. Before Chief Justice Renato Corona took the stand for the first time, Dennis Manalo expressed confidence about his ability to convince the nation and the court of his innocence. Photo by Natashya Gutierrez

Dennis Manalo, who delivered the closing argument of the defense team, is still a partner at Siguion Reyna, Montecillo and Ongsiako Law Firm. He told Rappler he is in court “day in, day out,” especially because he has gotten “more work because my clients want me to appear for them in court,” after the impeachment.

Manalo said he has since stopped teaching. But because of heavier workload, he has gotten less sleep.

Karen Jimeno

SPOKESPERSONS. Karen Jimeno, Tranquil Salvador and Rico Quicho were the ones who often faced the media. Photo by Rappler/Natashya Gutierrez

The only woman on the team, defense spokesperson Karen Jimeno, has since become a host of a television show on Solar TV, Legal Help Desk, which gives free legal advice. Jimeno also obtained her license to practice law in New York City after the trial.

She continues to teach property law at CEU Law and legal implications of international finance at the San Beda Graduate School of Law. Just several weeks ago, Jimeno was spotted modeling in Sofitel’s Mother’s Day fashion show.

Rico Quicho

The third spokesman of the defense team, Rico Quicho, told Rappler he is “pushing for some advocacies and would be concentrating on cases with social impact.” He has been invited to be a lecturer at Jurists Review Center for the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education and to teach at a reputable law school.

DEFENSE IN RED. The defense panel dresses in red to make a statement. Photo by Rappler

Quicho continues to work in his own law firm, Quicho and Angeles. He said the impeachment has brought “significant changes” for him and his family, including “higher expectations from clients, greater responsibilities, [more] exposure… respectability and opportunities.” Quicho is also aiming to train for his fourth 70.3 Ironman in Cebu.

Ramon Esguerra

Defense counsel Ramon Esguerra, a former undersecretary of the Department of Justice, said the “exposure [from the trial] added more and enhanced my litigation practice,” but he claims he still charges low fees. He was recently elected  governor of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines in South Luzon and chairman of the board of directors of the Intellectual Property Association of the Philippines, among others.

He continues to practice law at his firm, Esguerra and Blanco Law Offices. His clients include former Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor) chief Efraim Genuino who has been charged with plunder and graft, and Ben Tiu, who has been accused by the police of masterminding the killing of a Chinese businessman outside Chinabank in San Juan. Esguerra continues to run an art gallery. –

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Natashya Gutierrez

Natashya is President of Rappler. Among the pioneers of Rappler, she is an award-winning multimedia journalist and was also former editor-in-chief of Vice News Asia-Pacific. Gutierrez was named one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders for 2023.