The irony in SC ruling on Corona’s retirement benefits
What caught our attention in former chief justice Artemio Panganiban’s column (“Q&A on the game-changing SC decisions,” 4/4/21) was his mention of former ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales texting him to say “that Sereno (who was ousted as chief justice by way of quo warranto) should be granted… the same benefits given to Corona” (who was dismissed from the Supreme Court by way of impeachment). That snippet about the late chief justice Renato Corona being “given (retirement) benefits” by the Supreme Court was hardly noticed, happening as it did while the whole nation was too preoccupied with the onslaught of a killer pandemic.
Indeed, as reported in a news item (“SC grants release of late Chief Justice Corona’s retirement benefits,” 2/8/21), the plea made by Corona’s widow was acted upon favorably by the Supreme Court, thereby enabling her to collect all of the late chief justice’s retirements and allowances “equivalent to a five-year lump sum of the salary and allowances he was receiving at the time of his removal by impeachment on May 29, 2012.” That humongous financial package easily amounted to tens of millions of pesos, courtesy of the country’s taxpayers—supposedly in grateful appreciation of his services in the highest court of the land.
But, with due respect, should it be just conveniently forgotten that Corona was impeached and dismissed by an almost unanimous vote of the senator-judges after he was caught unlawfully concealing from his statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth enormous wealth stashed in secret dollar and peso bank accounts said to amount to at least P220 million ($2.8 million, roughly P140 million in current exchange rates, plus P80.7 million)? That undoubtedly created, in the minds of many, quite a strong presumption of “ill-gotten or unexplained wealth.”
For all intents and purposes, the people through their senators had adjudged Corona unfit and unworthy of the public trust in light of undisputed evidence. To say that it was just “politics rotten to the core” is to ignore the fact that even senators who were all along seen to be Corona partisans, like then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, voted to convict him. Was the irony of it all totally lost on the Supreme Court, which was mighty generous with the people’s money and got Corona’s mind-boggling riches to grow even bigger—never mind that the entire nation has practically gone belly-up due to the astronomical costs of dealing with the still raging global pandemic?
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