Renato Corona

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Renato Corona (15 October 1948-29 April 2016) was the 23rd Chief Justice of the Philippine Supreme Court (SC). Appointed by former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on 8 May 2010, he is the first Chief Justice in Philippine history to be convicted by the impeachment court on the charges of violation of the Constitution and the betrayal of public trust.






Contents

Early life and education

Corona was born in Tanauan City, Batangas.

Corona graduated with gold medal honors from Ateneo de Manila University grade school in 1962 and high school in 1966. He attended the same university and obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1970. He was the editor-in-chief of the university paper The Guidon and was secretary-general of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines from 1968 to 1970. Corona also captained the overall champion team of the 1970 Annual Debating Tournament of the Ateneo School of Arts and Sciences.

In 1974, Corona finished his Bachelor of Laws at the Ateneo Law School, graduating fifth in his class. He attended night classes in law school while working full-time for the Office of the Executive Secretary in Malacañang Palace | Malacañang]]. Corona ranked 25th out of 1,965 candidates in the bar examinations.

After law school, he pursued the Master of Business Administration course, without thesis, at the Ateneo Professional Schools. He then was accepted to the Master of Laws program in Harvard Law School in 1981. Corona concentrated on foreign investment policies and the regulation of corporate and financial institutions. In 1982, he was conferred the LL.M. degree by Harvard Law School.

Corona has honorary degrees in law from the University of Batangas and the University of Cebu. He is also a candidate for a Doctor of Civil Law degree at the University of Santo Tomas Graduate School.


Personal life

He is married to Cristina Roco with whom he has three children, all graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University and the University of the Philippines. He has six grandchildren namely Franco, Santino, Anika, Katrina, Natalia, and Caia.


Career

Corona was a special counsel at the Development Bank of the Philippines and then became senior vice-president, general counsel and corporate secretary of the Commercial Bank of Manila. He also held a senior position at the tax division of Sycip, Gorres, Velayo & Co.

In 1992, he became the assistant executive secretary for legal affairs under President Fidel V. Ramos and was concurrently head of the Malacañang Legal Office. In 1994, he was promoted to deputy executive secretary and then became the chief presidential legal counsel and member of the Cabinet. Corona was able to solve the Legal Office's perennial backlog of cases. While secretary, Corona was also concurrently vice-chairman of the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission; member of the Presidential Committee on Bail, Release and Pardon, the Cabinet Consultative Committee on the Government of the Republic of the Philippines-National Democratic Front (GRP-NDF) Peace Talks, and the Cabinet Committee on National Security. He also chaired the Appeals Committee of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB).

Corona also served twice as Chief of Staff under then vice-president Gloria Arroyo and joined her in Malacañang in 2001 when she became president where he also served as acting executive secretary.

Corona was the President of the Ateneo Alumni Association from 1991 to 1992 and taught corporation law and other commercial law subjects at the Ateneo Law School for 17 years. He contributed to the Manila Chronicle, writing on tax and commercial law issues in his column “Tax Corner.” He aslo wrote papers for law journals and teaches International Law at the graduate school of the University of Santo Tomas. He also represented the Supreme Court of the Philippines in international conferences and meetings including the 9th General Assembly of the Asean Law Association in Bangkok, Thailand. Corona has also delivered papers in bar and judicial congress abroad.

On 12 May 2010, Malacañang announced President Gloria Arroyo has chosen Supreme Court Associate Renato Corona to replace Chief Justice Reynato Puno. Corona was picked among 4 nominees submitted by the Judicial and Bar Council. His appointment, however, was met with significant opposition for it allegedly violated a constitutional ban in appointing court justices during the election period (popularly known as "midnight appointments"). However, the Supreme Court ruled that Corona's appointment was constitutional because the position of Chief Justice is exempted from midnight appointments.


Affiliations

  • Chairman, Supreme Court Third Division
  • Chairman, Supreme Court Legislative-Executive Relations Committee
  • Co-Chairman, Supreme Court Administrative Concerns Committee of the Supreme Court
  • Member, Supreme Court Committee on Public Information
  • Chairman, Integrated Bar of the Philippines Oversight Committee
  • Chairman, House of Representative Electoral Tribunal
  • Member, Judicial Reform Support Project Management Committee
  • Member, Harvard Law School Association of the Philippines board of trustees


Recognitions

  • 1998 - Recipient of the Philippine Legion of Honor Award with the rank of officer
  • 2004 - Dangal ng Batangan award, Batangas
  • 2005 - Outstanding Manilans
  • Special award by the Harvard University/Kennedy School of Government Alumni Association
  • Most Outstanding Graduate School Student, University of Santo Tomas


Impeachment

On 12 December 2011, 188 members of the House of Representatives signed an impeachment complaint against Corona, whom they accused of committing betrayal public trust and violation of the Constitution.

The prosecution panel, led by Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas, presented documents which sought to prove Corona's alleged failure to disclose all his wealth in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) during the impeachment trial which started on 16 January 2012. The impeachment court however asserted that Corona's alleged ill-gotten wealth should be proven by evidence and not by suspicion. Documents pertaining to his dollar deposits were also blocked by the impeachment court following the SC Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) which stopped the court from compelling Philippine Savings Bank officials to disclose information on the chief justice's foreign currency accounts.

Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Leila de Lima was invited to the witness stand by the prosecution panel to testify on the alleged irregularities when SC issued a TRO on the hold-departure order against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. 25 witnesses were presented in almost two months.

On 12 March 2012, Corona's defense panel led by retired SC Justice Serafin Cuevas started presenting their witnesses including former Manila City Mayor Lito Atienza who tried to disprove the existence of Corona's alleged undisclosed wealth.

In May, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales testified on Corona's alleged dollar deposits. She cited an Anti-Money Laundering Council report which revealed that Corona maintained more than USD 12 million deposits in 82 different dollar accounts. The defense team however questioned the authenticity of the report as Corona branded Morales' testimony as a “lantern of lies.”

On May 22, Corona testified before the impeachment court and delivered a three-hour speech denying the allegations made by the Ombudsman and the prosecution panel. After delivering his speech, he “walked out” from the session hall without being discharged by the court. He was reported to have suffered from low blood sugar. He spent some time in the intensive care unit of The Medical City hospital in Pasig City due to “the possibility of an acute coronary syndrome or heart attack.”

Corona returned to the witness stand on 25 May 2012 and admitted that he owned USD 2.4 million in several bank accounts. He said that he did not include the said dollar deposits in his SALN because of the confidentiality cause in the Foreign Currency Deposits Act (FCDA).

On May 28, members of the prosecution and defense panels gave their closing arguments in the impeachment trial of the chief justice.

On May 29, the Senate acting as the impeachment court convicted SC Chief Justice Renato Corona. 20 senator-judges have voted in favor of convicting Corona. At least 16 votes, or two-thirds of all the members of Senate, are needed to convict the chief justice. His conviction was in relation to the Article 2 of the impeachment complaint or Corona's failure to disclose all of his properties in his SALN.

In March 2014, the DOJ filed a case against Corona before the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) for allegedly evading taxes on Php 120.5 million in assets. The Office of the Ombudsman also filed a civil case for forfeiture of unexplained wealth amounting to Php 130.3 million and also cases of perjury and violation of Republic Act 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials) against him before the Sandiganbayan. A Php 130 million civil forfeiture case was also filed against him before the anti-graft court.

After the impeachment trial, he lived a life away from the public eye.


Death

Corona died on 29 April 2016 at 1:48 a.m in The Medical City in Pasig due to cardiac arrest. He was 67. Flags were flown at half-mast for Corona at the Supreme Court and all courts. He is survived by his wife, the former Cristina Roco, and their three children.

The criminal charges filed against him have been extinguished following his death. However, according to Roque and Butuyan Law Office senior associate Rommel Bagares, the separate civil action for forfeiture filed against Corona could proceed against his estate.

References


Citation

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