by Joseph Gideon Cundangan

Re: LETTER OF MRS. MA. CRISTINA ROCO CORONA REQUESTING GRANT OF RETIREMENT, AM No. 20-07-10-SC, 2021-01-12

Facts:

Renato Coronado Corona became the Chief Justice of the Philippines on May 12, 2010 after an eight-year stint as Associate Justice in the High Court. He occupied the judicial apex very momentarily: a year after his appointment as Chief Justice, Articles of Impeachment were filed against him and he was eventually indicted by the House of Representatives under Section 2, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution[3] on the alleged grounds of betrayal of public trust, culpable violation of the Constitution, and graft and corruption.

After a heavily-publicized trial, the Senate declared Chief Justice Corona unfit to hold such a lofty position and removed him from his office due mainly to his act of non-declaration of his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN). The Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, so declared in its final judgment on May 29, 2012

No objection or a motion for reconsideration was interposed against the judgment of the Senate. Having been dishonorably stripped of his public office and having undergone a most difficult and stressful trial, the Chief Justice's health quickly deteriorated culminating to his death on April 29, 2016. The separate criminal charges for graft and corruption then pending before the Sandiganbayan, as well as the tax evasion and forfeiture cases, were all necessarily dismissed in view of the Chief Justice's demise.

The widow of the Chief Justice, Mrs. Corona, now pleads for judicial benevolence.

In a letter dated July 13, 2020 now docketed as A.M. No. 20-07-10-SC, Mrs. Corona asserts, albeit unseeking of its reversal, that the Senate judgment removing the Chief Justice from office should be voided for insufficiency of evidence and noncompliance with Section 14, Article VIII of the Constitution.

She believes that the late Chief Justice is entitled to these benefits, having toiled for more than 20 years in public service until he was unseated at age 63. She also cites the previous acts of judicial benevolence accorded to a number of Supreme Court magistrates and implores for a similar treatment.Mrs. Corona further claims that her prayer for monetary reliefs have already been impliedly granted in view of the issuance of clearances by the section heads of the Supreme Court's administrative arm and her receipt of her husband's monetized accrued leave credits, all in accordance with the Court's September 3, 2019 Resolution in A.M. No. 19-09-02-SC.

The OCAt posits that the late Chief Justice failed to qualify under RA 9946, or An Act Granting Additional Retirement, Survivorship, and Other Benefits to Members of the Judiciary, Amending for the Purpose Republic Act No. 910, as Amended, Providing Funds Therefor and for Other Purposes. The initiatory sentence of Section 1 thereof was of alleged relevance to the case at hand:

Issues:

Ripe

Ripe

Ripe for judicial determination is the question of whether retirement benefits, other gratuities, and survivorship pension should be accorded to Mrs. Corona as the spouse of the late Chief Justice Corona despite the latter's ouster by impea

Ripe for judicial determination is the question of whether retirement benefits, other gratuities, and survivorship pension should be accorded to Mrs. Corona as the spouse of the late Chief Justice Corona despite the latter's ouster by impeachment.

Ripe for judicial determination is the question of whether retirement benefits, other gratuities, and survivorship pension should be accorded to Mrs. Corona as the spouse of the late Chief Justice Corona despite the latter's ouster by impeachment.

Ruling:

The Court grants the plea of Chief Justice Corona's widow.

The Court deems Chief Justice Corona to have been involuntarily retired from public service due to the peculiar circumstances surrounding his removal by impeachment, without forfeiture of his retirement benefits and other allowances.

The OCAt posits that the late Chief Justice failed to qualify under RA 9946, or An Act Granting Additional Retirement, Survivorship, and Other Benefits to Members of the Judiciary, Amending for the Purpose Republic Act No. 910, as Amended, Providing Funds Therefor and for Other Purposes. The initiatory sentence of Section 1 thereof was of alleged relevance to the case at hand

The OCAt mistakenly focused on the preliminary wordings of Section 1, RA 9964. The former Chief Justice can never be deemed to have retired at the age of 70, nor can he be considered as resigned by reason of any permanent disability, as his separation from service was not in any way effected through resignation. What has the most proximate application to the case of former Chief Justice Corona is the proviso immediately succeeding the sentence quoted and relied upon by the OCAt

Chief Justice Renato C. Corona is hereby DECLARED entitled to retirement benefits and other allowances under Republic Act No. 9946 equivalent to a five-year lump sum of the salary and other allowances he was receiving at the time of his removal by impeachment on May 29, 2012. The claim of survivorship benefits of Ma. Cristina Roco Corona is hereby GRANTED reckoned from the lapse of the five-year period on the lump sum. All benefits granted herein are ordered immediately RELEASED to his widow and beneficiary, Ma. Cristina Roco Corona, subject to usual clearances.

Principles:

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