Ex-chief justice Renato Corona dies

UNFINISHED BUSINESS: The Supreme Court will decide if sacked Chief Justice Renato Corona is entitled to a retirement pay. Rappler file photo

UNFINISHED BUSINESS: The Supreme Court will decide if sacked Chief Justice Renato Corona is entitled to a retirement pay.

Rappler file photo

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Former Chief Justice Renato Corona died early Friday, April 29, in the hospital due to a lingering illness, the National Transformation Council to which he belonged announced. He was 67.

 "It is with deep sorrow that the National Transformation Council announce the demise of Council member Chief Justice Renato C. Corona. At 1:48 am today, April 29, 2016, Chief Justice Corona succumbed to cardiac arrest. Please pray for the eternal repose of his soul as he joins his Creator," the council said in its Facebook post.

Radio station DZRH also broke the news, Supreme Court (SC) spokesman Theodore Te also confirmed it on Twitter. 

The PIO has just been informed by the family of former CJ Renato C. Corona that he has passed away this morning. No details available. (1/2) — SC PIO (Official) (@SCPh_PIO) April 28, 2016

The CJ has directed that the flag in the SC and all courts nationwide be flown at half mast to mourn the passing of the former CJ (2/2) — SC PIO (Official) (@SCPh_PIO) April 28, 2016

"The Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court mourn the passing of Renato C. Corona, the Court's 23rd Chief Justice," the SC said in a separate statement.

Corona was the 23rd chief justice of the Philippines and the first member of the High Tribunal to be impeached, and later dismissed, in its history. His impeachment trial was also the first of its kind in the country to be concluded.

An Ateneo student from grade school to law school, Corona served two presidents before being appointed Supreme Court justice in 2002. 

He was assistant secretary for legal affairs then later presidential counsel of former President Fidel Ramos. 

Under the Estrada government, he was recruited by then Vice President Gloria Arroyo to serve as her chief of staff. And when Arroyo became president in the wake of Estrada’s ouster in 2001, Corona became her chief of staff and acting executive secretary.

In April 2002, Mrs Arroyo appointed Corona justice of the Supreme Court. 

Shortly before Arroyo stepped down from office, she named Corona chief justice in what has since been described as a midnight appointment – made in March 2010, upon the retirement of Chief Justice Reynato Puno and months before the presidential elections that year.

Impeached under Aquino

The presidential front runner during that period, then senator Benigno Aquino III, criticized what he considered as Arroyo's illegal move that came during the election ban on appointments.

Corona's first term as chief justice was wracked with lingering doubts over his independence and the legitimacy of his appointment even as the Aquino administration pursued plunder charges against Mrs Arroyo.

Saying Corona himself was an obstacle to his anti-corruption crusade, the President led the initiative that paved the way for Corona’s impeachment in December 2011.

In May 2012, the Senate, acting as an impeachment court, found him guilty of betraying public trust and violating the Constitution for failing to declare his true assets. The verdict – with 20 senators finding him guilty and 3 others acquitting him – was issued while Corona was confined at the Medical City in Pasig. A diabetic, Corona was rushed to the hospital after his blood sugar dropped during his testimony at the trial. (READ: Decrowned: The fall of Renato Corona)

Corona's dismissal was Aquino's first major show of legislative and political muscle, as he marshalled all allies against Corona. The government later filed various tax evasion charges against him and his family.

Corona and his supporters accused Aquino of using state resources simply to get back at Arroyo, who was jailed 6 months after Corona's dismissal. They considered him as a well-meaning leader, gentle, soft-spoken and a good family man. 

Born on October 15, 1948, Corona is survived by wife Cristina Basa Roco and their 3 children. The SC said his remains will lie in state at The Heritage Park starting Saturday, April 30. – Rappler.com

Editor's Note: We earlier reported that Corona had a kidney transplant a few months ago. We have already corrected this.