MANILA, Philippines - Chief Justice Renato Corona on Monday said his detractors will have to kill him first if they want him removed as the country's top magistrate.
"Kamatayan lang. Kung gusto nilang tanggalin ako dito, patayin nila ako," Corona said when asked what it would take for him to resign his post.
He added that his own life is a small sacrifice to defend the institution that he serves.
Corona will go on trial at the Senate today after being accused of betrayal of public trust, culpable violation of the Constitution and graft and corruption.He is the first chief justice of the country to be impeached and put on trial.
Former Justice Undersecretary Ramon Esguerra, a member of Corona's defense team, said the embattled chief justice is leaving the trial up to God but is determined to clear his name.
"He leaves it to God but he is determined to fight this out and clear his name and be able to tell our people that he is hiding nothing from them and he respects the process and the institution that will try him and he will meet all the allegations against him head on," he said.
Esguerra said public perception will play a major role in the impeachment trial, noting that Corona had been prejudged even before the trial.
He also said the defense panel wants Corona to appear in the trial so he could face his accusers. He said 12 defense lawyers will attend the trial.
Corona has enlisted the help of the country's legal luminaries to defend himself, including a retired Supreme Court justice, who will be pitted against an 11-member prosecution team backed by 59 volunteer private prosecutors. Esguerra said 12 of some 30 members of the defense team will attend the trial.
The prosecutors have said they would like to wrap up their case in three weeks, in an effort to achieve a quick ruling.
Presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte said the impeachment trial was evidence of "a vigorous democracy at work," and showed the government was prepared to use the law to hold public officials to account. -- With reports from Anthony Taberna, ABS-CBN News; and Agence France-Presse