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Philippine top judge's trial adjourned

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The impeachment trial of the Philippines' top judge has been adjourned, after he testified that he did not violate any laws when he failed to declare $2.4m in bank accounts.

Friday's trial in the capital, Manila, came to a halt after Renato Corona announced he was feeling unwell. Closing arguments were expected to be heard on Monday.

The chief justice is accused of blocking efforts to prosecute former President Gloria Arroyo and illegally amassing a personal fortune.

In court, he invoked the bank privacy law that protects foreign deposits from disclosure. Several senators and prosecutors who want Corona removed from office on charges of betraying public trust said that he violated the constitution that says public officials must declare all their assets.

Just three days earlier, Corona, who is a diabetic and has undergone a double by-pass surgery, walked out of a court session, citing health reasons.

He has spent the last few days in hospital with doctors saying he was at risk of getting a heart attack if exposed to stress.

'Personal vendetta'

Corona's senate trial to decide whether or not he should be removed from office began a month after President Benigno Aquino's congressional allies impeached him in December, the first such move so far against a chief justice of the Supreme Court.

The top judge has denounced the impeachment proceedings as a personal vendetta by Aquino, and says the trial is retribution to last year's landmark Supreme Court verdict that ordered the president's clan to break up a sprawling sugar plantation and hand plots over to farmers.

For his part, Aquino says deposing Corona is vital for fighting Filipino corruption.

"Aquino wants to clean up the entire system of what he calls institutionalised corruption, which he has blamed on presidents who sat before him, especially President Gloria Arroyo," Ortigas said.

If convicted, Corona would lose his job and might face additional criminal charges.

Corona had previously led a rally of hundreds of court employees, including judges, to protest against the "end of judicial independence", in reference to the charges against him.

Aquino has said the accusations by Corona against him are false and that he is only seeking to clean up the judiciary.

Corona and 11 other justices on the 15-member Supreme Court were appointed by Arroyo, who was arrested last year and later charged with vote-rigging and corruption.


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