Aquino Meets Prosecutors After Corona Conviction

MANILA, Philippines - A mini-victory party was held in Malacañang Tuesday night with President Benigno S. Aquino III and the House prosecution team celebrating the conviction of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona.

The President thanked the congressmen and private prosecutors during a meeting in the Palace after the Senate impeachment court issued a guilty verdict on Corona, according to his deputy spokeswoman Abigail Valte.

Valte explained that the prosecutors and their staff went to the Palace for the "impromptu courtesy call" on the President. She insisted that the President's meeting with the prosecution team was not included in his official schedule "because it was unplanned."

"The members of the prosecution, including the private prosecutors, members of the secretariat and staff were received by the President in an impromptu call last (Tuesday) night. President Aquino met most of them for the first time and thanked them for volunteering to help," Valte said.

Last Tuesday, Corona was removed from office after the Senate sitting as impeachment court convicted him for failure to disclose his true wealth in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN). He became the first Chief Justice to be ousted from office.

Corona, an appointee of former President Arroyo, insisted he is innocent but would reportedly comply with the Senate verdict.

Prior to the Senate verdict, the President said an acquittal of Corona would have been catastrophic for the country. Aquino, addressing a youth summit in Quezon City last Tuesday, sought for prayers to prevent such a disaster from happening.

The Palace hailed the ouster of Corona as a step towards restoring public trust in the judiciary. The President has 90 days to appoint a new Chief Justice from the shortlist that will be submitted by the Judicial and Bar Council.

Meanwhile, a Catholic prelate said Corona should be emulated by all public officials.

In an interview, Malolos Bishop Jose Oliveros said he was referring to Corona's initiative to waive his right of confidentiality of his bank accounts.

"Although CJ Corona was convicted I don't think he has ill gotten wealth. His failure to declare his SALN (Statement of Assets and Liabilities Network) is a failure in judgment but not out of malicious intent," he said.

"His example of waiving his right to confidentiality of his bank accounts must be emulated by all public officials," added Oliveros.

Corona earlier submitted an unconditional waiver authorizing scrutiny of all his bank accounts.

To recall, Corona also signed a waiver on his bank accounts but said he wanted all 188 complainants against him plus Sen. Franklin Drilon to do the same first. However, majority of the lawmakers rejected his challenge and branded the move as a stunt.

Catholic prelates, meantime, expressed belief that the decision of the senator-judges to vote for Corona's conviction was motivated by conscience and not by politics.

"I think that the judgment is fair, based on evidence. Corona did not give a satisfactory explanation of his own defense against very serious allegations. It is not politically motivated because the 20 senators are not all allies of the administration. I salute them for voting according to their conscience," said Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes.

"I think they tried their best to make their judgment based on the arguments presented by both sides. They also use their conscience. Since CJ Corona is a top leader, we expect him to be an example in terms of transparency and high moral standard going beyond legalism," Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco said. (With a report from Leslie Ann G. Aquino)

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