[File photo of former Chief Justice Renato Corona]

MANILA , JUNE 3, 2013 (PHILSTAR) By Louis Bacani - The judicial reforms by the government are still a "work in progress" a year after the historic conviction of a former Supreme Court Chief Justice, a Palace official said on Wednesday.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said after the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona, the government hopes to continue the reforms initiated by President Benigno Aquino III.

"[The judicial reforms are] still a work in progress. Perhaps the impact that you can see immediately is the emphasis given on the filing of SALNs (statements of assets, liabilities and net worth) when it comes to the employees of the government.

On May 29, 2012, the Senate sitting as an impeachment trial court declared Corona guilty of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution.

The ex-chief magistrate was found guilty of violating Article II of the Articles of Impeachment filed against him after he failed to fully disclose his wealth in his SALN.

The chief magistrate was impeached in 2011 at the House of Representatives.

Corona's removal from office paved way for "changes" in the judiciary with the appointment of Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, who is the first female SC head.

Representative Raul Daza, a member of the prosecution panel, said the impeachment highliighted the need for accountability of government officials and showed how the system of checks and balances works.

"I believe that the impeachment trial, however it went, strengthened our democratic institutions," Daza said in a television interview on Wednesday.

He also agreed with Valte's statement, saying the SALN has become a "serious document."


One year after Corona trial, what has changed? by Jon Carlos Rodriguez, ABS-CBNnews.com Posted at 05/29/2013 11:32 PM | Updated as of 05/29/2013 11:32 PM

MANILA – Veteran investigative journalist Marites Vitug believes Supreme Court (SC) justices have learned their lessons a year after Chief Justice Renato Corona was removed from his post through an impeachment trial.

Vitug said the magistrates, especially those associated with Corona and former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, are now more careful, fearing they may suffer the same fate as the convicted Chief Justice.

“The feedback we get from the inside is that there is more circumspect now. I think they have learned their lessons. Some were scared, I think they feared that they will also be impeached because there was a lot of noise during the impeachment that this will not be the last time,” she told ANC’s “Prime Time” on Wednesday.

After 44 trial days in 2012, Corona became the first Philippine official to be convicted and removed by an impeachment court for his failure to disclose all his assets as mandated by law.

President Aquino picked Maria Lourdes Sereno to replace Corona, but Vitug said it was not an easy transition for the high court.

Vitug said there was resistance from several justices loyal to Corona, but the resistance eventually quieted down.

She said changes in terms of transparency were immediately seen days after Corona was impeached, but she believes that these aren't enough.

“After Corona was convicted, like a day or two after, we saw on the Supreme Court website their financial reports, their audit reports, but it’s still not complete. And then they decided to release their asset statements, but now we’re surprised because we’ve been requesting for the SALNs [statement of assets, liabilities and net worth] again for this year and we haven’t received any,” said Vitug.

Vitug noted that Sereno herself has yet to respond to her request for a copy of her SALN.

Vitug said Sereno's new task as chief magistrate must be “overwhelming.”

“She’s junior, she met a lot of resistance, and remember that she tried to reform the Supreme Court by decentralizing, which is good,” said Vitug.

Vitug reminded SC justices that “dignified silence” does not exempt them from being transparent in their assets and finances.

“Dignified silence only means that you don’t talk to the press face-to-face and you don’t give interviews, but you should make all your public documents transparent. Because the decisions speak for themselves,” she said.

Vitug stressed that the public should pay attention to the Supreme Court because “they are the final arbiter.”

“They are the soul of the country. They are unelected, they’re supposed to be on a pedestal, they’re supposed to be gods. I really thought that they set the direction for the country in terms of their laws and their decisions,” she said.

After Corona was removed from office, the Bureau of Internal Revenue slapped tax evasion charges against him, his daughter, and his son-in-law.

Corona, however, still maintains his innocence, calling the impeachment trial a “sham.”


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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