MANILA, Philippines - Former Chief Justice Renato Corona is not about to give up on his campaign for Judicial Independence. And he is bent on devoting the rest of his life to the cause, even outside of the halls of the Supreme Court (SC).
In an intimate gathering in Makati City on Thursday night attended by Corona's family, Defense lawyers, and staunch supporters, the former head of the Judiciary, in a message dubbed "A Call to Conscience," said the greatest lesson he learned from his close to 5-month impeachment trial is to make it his life's mission to actively advocate for the independence of the 3rd co-equal branch of government, and serve as an instrument in the advancement and protection of the Rule of Law at all times.
The guilty verdict handed down by the Senate Impeachment Court will not deter him from the cause, Corona said.
"This, in fact, is just the beginning... The verdict is for me to step down from office. It is not for me to give up the fight for the Rule of Law, Judicial Independence, and transparency in government service... My path may have veered away significantly from where it once was, but the destination is still the same, even clearer now than it was before," he said.
"I now see that as painful as the process and the result has been for me and my family, this had to happen, and I embrace this unprecedented turn of events as an indispensable catalyst for much needed social and political change," he added.
Opening up on pains, difficulties
Corona opened up on all the pains and difficult moments his family endured, and thanked all those who offered prayers for them, including the Religious of the Virgin Mary, whose sisters came to join the Corona family.
"I thought that circumstances and time, especially given the outcome of the trial, would eventually exhaust the list of reasons and the people I have to thank for seeing me and my family through our most difficult ordeal to date. I was wrong... my deepest gratitude and appreciation at the overwhelming show of concern and support that I have received from family, friends, and strangers alike," Corona said.
The former chief magistrate told his audience that the "coordinate campaign" against him was "in reality, not just to remove a Chief Justice from office, but to seize control of a co-equal and coordinate branch of government in derogation of every constitutional principle our ancestors have fought and died for."
"In the course of the past 6 months, I have struggled to catch every single blow in defense not just of myself but of the institution that I have sworn to uphold and defend... The animalistic ferocity of the accusations and persecution, coupled with the seeming lack of attention and respect given to constitutional and legal rights and procedures, gave it all away," Corona said.
"I will not allow them to intimidate me. I will not allow them to intimidate the country... This may well be the point of all that I have suffered, along with my family and the Philippine Judiciary. We are in a time of great revolution in the demands, nature and culture of public service. Never let it be said that amidst this historical call for change and conscience, our public servants have stood aside and refused to undertake the challenge for transparency and accountability," he said.
Call for unconditional waiver
During his testimony before the Impeachment Court, Corona signed an unconditional waiver on his foreign currency accounts and all of his family's properties so that government agencies may pry open the extent of his wealth, with the end goal of showing to the public all his assets are hard-earned and did not come from illegal public transactions.
He challenged all his accusers, and Senator-judge Franklin Drilon then to do the same. Last night, Corona echoed the call, this time, for all officials in government.
"As a private citizen, I reiterate my call to all public servants to take up the challenge for true transparency and accountability through an outright waiver of confidentiality on the part of each and every public official. That was what the people wanted from the Chief Justice, and that was what he readily gave as a public servant: no ifs, not buts, just an unconditional promise to recognize that sovereignty is lodged in the people, who deserve nothing but the highest standards of governance and accountability," he said.
"Standing this time on the side of the governed, I claim my right to challenge all public servants to be faithful representatives of the true sovereign," he added.
Speaking to ABS-CBN News at the sidelines of the event, Corona's supporters from various advocacy groups said it is high time for all public officials, starting from Pres. Aquino all the way down, to keep up with the former Chief Justice's challenge, in the best interest of the public they govern.
Several personalities posed questions to Corona, while some only came to personally express their gratitude for the cause he is fighting for.
"Some of us may be quiet, but we support the Chief Justice (Corona). He is the sacrificial lamb. We pray for his good health...my Order's daily prayers offered during the impeachment have been answered, I am very happy you have this advocacy," an RVM sister told Corona during the forum part of the event.
The RVM sisters have been praying for the Coronas in the course of the impeachment trial, and vowed to continue praying for the family's healing and new mission.
A mass was celebrated after the forum to culminate the event.