MANILA // Senators fired the Philippines' Supreme Court chief justice yesterday for failing to declare US$2.4 million (Dh8.8m) in bank accounts in a trial that has reinvigorated President Benigno Aquino III's campaign to clean up the government.
Appointed by Mr Aquino's predecessor, Chief Justice Renato Corona has called the effort to oust him a threat to democracy. He said his omission was not an impeachable offence and that a 1974 bank privacy law protects foreign deposits from disclosure, while prosecutors argued the constitution mandates a full declaration of assets for someone in his position.
Corona is considered fired and barred from public office after senators voted 20 to 3 to convict him on charges of betraying public trust and violating the constitution.
He testified last week that it was not him alone who is on trial and challenged all 188 legislators who impeached him to disclose their dollar accounts - but there were few takers.
Reacting to his conviction, Corona said that he was innocent and that "bad politics" prevailed in his trial. But he suggested he was ready to accept his fate.
"I have not committed any wrong," he said, but added that "if this will be for the country's good, I am accepting the difficulties we're going through".
The five-month-long proceedings, which were televised, gripped the nation like a soap opera, with emotional testimony, political grandstanding and a sideshow family drama.
Prosecutors, most of whom are Aquino's allies from the lower House of Representatives, argued that Corona concealed his wealth and offered "lame excuses" to avoid public accountability.
Corona said he had accumulated his wealth from foreign exchange when he was still a student.
Representative Rodolfo Farinas, one of the prosecutors, ridiculed the 63-year-old justice, saying he "wants us to believe that when he was in the fourth grade in 1959 he was such a visionary that he already started buying dollars".
"It is clear that these were excuses and lies made before the Senate and the entire world," Rep Farinas said in Monday's closing arguments, adding that Corona had declared in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth less than 2 per cent of what he actually owned.