A retired Supreme Court justice has urged Congress to correct what he believed was an injustice done to late Chief Justice Renato Corona by lawmakers during the previous administration.
Retired SC Associate Justice Arturo Brion appealed to members of the incoming 18th Congress to pass a measure that would grant the heirs of Corona the retirement and other benefits deprived him due to his ouster by impeachment in 2012.
Brion, a colleague of the late chief justice, lamented that Corona did not receive any retirement benefit because of his ouster by members of Congress.
“His family continues to be denied the retirement benefits that deceased members of the judiciary can leave to their families. Congress can remedy this situation if it wants to, not by resurrecting the dead and buried impeachment case, but by legislating a financial grant that is within its authority to give—funds for the judiciary to pay the equivalent of the retirement pay and the benefits the late chief justice would have left behind,” he said.
“The late chief justice mercifully died three years ago, carrying his underserved impeachment taint to the grave. This is the injustice our newly elected national officials shall soon face. Unless they act, the injustice done to the chief justice shall forever serve as a towering monument of how the misdeeds of the Aquino administration triumphed,” Brion added.
The retired magistrate argued that the Supreme Court may also move to grant Corona’s heirs his retirement benefits.
Brion recalled that Corona was impeached after the Court under his watch ordered the distribution to farmers of the Hacienda Luisita owned by former President Benigno Aquino III and also voided the truth commission that was supposed to investigate corruption charges against former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
He also cited the reported admission by former Senator Jinggoy Estrada and returning senator Ramon Revilla Jr. that they were bribed by the previous administration to vote for Corona’s ouster during impeachment trial in the Senate by offering millions of Disbursement Acceleration Program funds, which the Supreme Court later on declared unconstitutional.
Brion said Estrada claimed that Aquino “had used pork barrel funds to bribe the senators in 2012 in his campaign to impeach the late chief justice.”
He said Revilla, on the other hand, disclosed that Aquino asked him to vote for the impeachment of the late chief justice.
“These developments gave rise to the DAP cases that were filed with the Supreme Court to question the Executive’s use of DAP funds. The records showed that vast amounts of DAP funds were distributed by the Palace to the senators before, during, and after the impeachment hearings. The distributed DAP funds during and after the hearings alone amounted to P2.043 billion. Senators Estrada and Revilla each received P100 million from this distribution,” Brion said.
Brion also cited findings during the impeachment trial that disproved the allegations against Corona.
He recalled the testimony of then Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales that Corona’s holdings amounted to $12 million, was based on total credits and debits over his nine years in service.
“The real base amount though was only the $2 million accumulated deposit that the chief justice had earned and saved during his private sector law practice years,” the retired justice said.
“Allegations of properties in Corona’s name—provided by the Land Registration Commission—turned out to be duds,” Brion added.
Corona was removed from office in May 2012 after impeachment trial in the Senate for betrayal of public trust over failure to disclose his assets in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth. He died in April 2016.
His successor, Ma. Lourdes Sereno was also ousted in May last year through a quo warranto decision by her colleagues in the Supreme Court.