The Philippines’ top judge, who walked out of an appearance at his own impeachment trial, was later rushed to hospital after suffering an apparent heart attack, his spokesman said yesterday.
Chief Justice Renato Corona checked into a hospital on Tuesday night after his three-hour appearance before the Senate, during which he denounced the landmark corruption proceedings as a personal vendetta by Philippine President Benigno Aquino III.
“The diagnosis is possible heart attack,” Corona’s spokesman, Midas Marquez, said during several radio interviews.
The development could delay resolution of the trial, which analysts warn has caused deep political divisions in one of Southeast Asia’s most free-wheeling democracies.
Corona is accused of failing to declare up to US$12 million in bank accounts and Aquino has alleged the judge sought to protect former Philippine president Gloria Arroyo, who is being tried separately for vote-rigging.
Aquino won a landslide election victory in 2010 on a platform to end pervasive corruption blamed for massive poverty, and his congressional allies impeached Corona in December, the first such move ever against a chief justice of the Supreme Court.
Corona’s Senate trial to decide whether or not he should be removed from office began a month later and has since gripped the nation with millions watching the drama live on TV.
The judge, a diabetic who previously had a heart bypass operation, stunned the Senate when he abruptly walked out following his testimony on Tuesday.
He was later brought back in a wheelchair, after his lawyers said he had fallen unwell.
However, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile ordered him to take the stand again yesterday for cross-examination and warned his testimony would be struck off the record if he failed to do so.
Corona denied the allegations and accused Aquino of a personal vendetta after a landmark Supreme Court verdict last year that ordered the president’s clan to break up a sprawling sugar plantation and hand plots over to farmers.