Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Philippines Judge Testifies in His Impeachment Trial ; at Times in Tears, He Says Law Didn't Require Report of $2.4 Million in Assets

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Philippines Judge Testifies in His Impeachment Trial ; at Times in Tears, He Says Law Didn't Require Report of $2.4 Million in Assets

Article excerpt

At times weeping on the stand, Chief Justice Renato C. Corona testified for the first time in his impeachment trial in the Philippine Senate.

The chief justice of the Philippine Supreme Court, Renato C. Corona, testified in his impeachment trial Friday that he had $2.4 million in undeclared foreign currency deposits, a figure far lower than prosecutors have alleged. And he insisted that, under his interpretation of the law, he was not required to disclose the money.

During detailed testimony about his finances -- punctuated by weeping, anecdotes about his family and breaks for medical checkups by nearby doctors -- Chief Justice Corona debated the legalities of reporting requirements for government officials.

The chief justice is accused of biased legal decisions and failing to declare his assets as required by law, though the case has focused primarily on his finances. He was impeached by the House of Representatives in December and will be removed from office if convicted by the Senate.

His impeachment and the prosecution of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who appointed him chief justice, have been central to the anti-corruption campaign of President Benigno S. Aquino III. The president's supporters say that if Chief Justice Corona is not removed, he could be an obstacle to good governance efforts that are linked to the country's recent strong economic performance.

Corona supporters say that Mr. Aquino is trying to consolidate power by attacking the judiciary. The chief justice has also alleged that the president favors the impeachment in retaliation for court rulings that mandate the breakup of an Aquino family plantation.

At the chief justice's trial, evidence was presented that he had more than $28 million in foreign currency deposits. That figure was disallowed, and prosecutors revised it to an estimate of $10 million to $12 million. Prosecutors have struggled to determine his assets because the Philippines has extremely stringent secrecy laws governing foreign currency deposits. …

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