The Philippines’ top judge on Friday disclosed he had more than $4 million in his bank accounts as he wound up an emotional testimony to try and save his job at his closely watched impeachment trial.
The hearing, beamed live on television to a captivated nationwide audience, has caused deep political divisions in one of Southeast Asia’s most free-wheeling democracies.
Chief Justice Renato Corona, 63, will be removed from office and could face criminal prosecution if he is found guilty of three charges including failure to declare his assets.
He broke down several times during three hours of evidence, accusing President Benigno Aquino of using government agencies to destroy his reputation.
He had to be driven to the Senate in an ambulance after feeling faint earlier in the week.
Corona, the last witness in his four-month trial, said: “I have never at any time had $10 million, $11 million, $12 million dollars.”
Those were some of the hefty sums mentioned by a special graft investigator at the trial, which is scheduled to wind up next week.
A 23-member Senate sitting as an impeachment court is scheduled to decide as early as Monday whether to convict or acquit the magistrate, who says the money in his accounts was saved up over 35 years, many of those spent as a lawyer.
His removal was sought by Aquino, who won a landslide election victory in 2010 on a platform to end the pervasive corruption that he blamed for mass poverty.
The House of Representatives, which moved to impeach Corona in December, allege that in addition to failing to fully declare his assets, Corona blocked government efforts to prosecute former president Gloria Arroyo.
The corruption-tainted former leader herself is being tried separately for vote-rigging.
Corona declared a net worth of 22.9 million pesos (about $533,000) in his 2010 statement of assets and liabilities, which all public officials are required by the constitution to declare.
The amount was far less than the bank deposits disclosed for the first time Friday, but Corona said a 1973 law guaranteeing total secrecy of foreign currency deposits meant he was never under any obligation to declare them.
Corona said he now has about 80.7 million pesos in deposits and the rest in dollars, bringing his total declared wealth to $4.2 million.
Most of the pesos deposits are owned by his in-laws and his three grown-up children, he said.
Corona began his testimony on Tuesday, when he rejected the charges and described them as cooked up by Aquino. The chief justice then left after three hours and checked into a hospital after becoming faint.