Sandiganbayan upholds ruling on putting Renato Corona on trial
Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, with a hep-lock attached to his hand, drinks soda during his impeachment trial at the Senate in Manila May 25, 2012. The Philippines’ top judge returned to the witness stand at his own impeachment trial to deny concealing 45 properties and millions in assets and denounce a case President Benigno Aquino sees as key to rooting out corruption. Corona, chief justice of the 15-member Supreme Court, was installed by Aquino’s predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who herself faces election fraud and corruption charges. Corona had left the witness stand during his impeachment trial on May 22, 2012 and was hospitalised after his blood sugar dropped sharply according to his lawyers.(MNS Photo)
MANILA (Mabuhay) – The Sandiganbayan Third Division has upheld its earlier ruling finding probable cause to put on trial former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona for perjury and violation of the Code of Conduct for Public Officials in connection with his alleged misdeclaration of assets.
In a 28-page resolution promulgated on Wednesday, the anti-graft court junked Corona’s motion for reconsideration seeking to reverse its August 2015 ruling finding grounds to put him on trial for eight counts of perjury under the Revised Penal Code (RPC) and another eight counts of violation of Republic Act No. 6713.
The court said Corona, in his motion for reconsideration, failed to present any argument apart from those he had already raised in his motion for judicial determination of probable cause. The court denied the motion on August 13, 2015.
“The Court finds the accused’s motion for reconsideration devoid of merit.…To be sure, the aforesaid issues have been previously raised by the accused in his motion for judicial determination of probable cause. They were thoroughly considered and passed upon by the Court in its assailed Resolution,” the Third Division said.
The court set Corona’s arraignment for both charges on January 26 at 1:30 p.m.
The justices who voted for the denial of Corona’s motion for reconsideration were the same ones who earlier voted that there was probable cause to put him on trial namely Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice and Third Division chairman Amparo Cabotaje-Tang and Associate Justices Alez Quiroz, Jose Hernandez, and Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta.
Just as in the previous ruling, Associate Justice Samuel Martires dissented.
In its new ruling, the court maintained that there is sufficient evidence on hand to assume that “more likely than not, the charges has been committed by the accused Corona”.
The court said, Corona’s other claims about the validity of the pieces of evidence in the case should best be validated in a full-blown trial.
“The validity and merits of a party’s accusation or defense, as well as admissibility of testimonies and evidence, are better ventilated during the trial proper. To repeat, a finding of probable cause needs only rest on evidence showing that, more likely than not, a crime has been committed and that it was committed by the accused,” the ruling read.
The charges against Corona filed by the Office of the Ombudsman before the Sandiganbayan in April 2014 stemmed from his alleged misdeclaration of assets in his Statement of Assets Liabilities and Net Worth (SALNs) from 2001 to 2011.
“Wherefore, the court denies the accused’s motion for reconsideration dated August 27, 2015 for lack of merit and/or for being pro forma,” the Third Division said.
Corona and his wife Cristina are also facing a P130.59-million civil forfeiture case before another division of the Sandiganbayan also in connection with their alleged misdeclarations in their SALNs.
In 2012, the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, has convicted Corona for betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution over non-declaration of several assets, including real estate properties in his SALNs, causing his removal from the Supreme Court.(MNS)