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Chief Justice Renato C. Corona

FORMER Chief Justice Renato C. Corona was preparing to clear his name and reclaim his seat in the Supreme Court when he succumbed to cardiac arrest early Friday morning, April 29. He was the only Chief Justice ever to be impeached.

With his untimely death, his plan to vindicate himself also comes to an end.

Justice Corona was appointed chief justice by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on May 12, 2010, after the retirement of Chief Justice Renato Puno. A suit was brought before the Supreme Court as the Constitution bans presidential appointments two months before the election up to the end of her term. But the Supreme Court ruled that the ban does not cover the judiciary.

President Aquino was elected in that election and, instead of following the tradition of being sworn in by the chief justice, he chose to be sworn in on June 30, 2010, by Associate Justice Conchita Carpio Morales, who had dissented in the Supreme Court ruling. Months later, in December, 2011, the House of Representatives approved an impeachment complaint with eight articles – later reduced to three – against Corona. The Senate on May 29, 2012, voted for conviction on the first article – that Corona failed to disclose to the public his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Networth (SALN), in Betrayal of Public Trust and/or Culpable Violation of the Constitution. The Senate then decided not to pursue voting on the two other articles of impeachment.

It was charged by opposition quarters at the time that funds from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) figured in the impeachment case, but that has never been established. Chief Justice Corona was preparing to do this as soon as the next administration assumed office, when he died.

It is difficult to say how successful he would have been if he lived to carry out his plan. It would have been one of the livelier issues that some opposition quarters were threatening to raise against some administration figures.

The case must now be set aside.

For now, the nation can only honor him on his death. The Supreme Court lowered its flag to half-mast and several officials cited his record of service to the nation, notably in legal education and upholding the rule of law.

Malacañang has extended its condolences to the Corona family. We join in paying him tribute.