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Philippines chief justice impeached by congress

image captionRenato Corona is the first head of the Philippine judiciary ever to be impeached

Congress in the Philippines has voted to impeach the country's Chief Justice Renato Corona for allegedly betraying public trust.

He will be put on trial before the Philippine Senate next year.

Mr Corona has been accused of showing bias towards the country's former president, Gloria Arroyo, who originally appointed him and is now facing charges of electoral fraud.

The chief justice denies violating the constitution.

In the impeachment vote, 188 of the 284 members of the House of Representatives backed the resolution to put Mr Corona on trial.

In addition to the breach of trust allegation he is also accused of failing to disclose all his assets and of "undue closeness" to Mrs Arroyo.

If found guilty he is likely to be forced from office.

Mr Corona's appointment by Mrs Arroyo was controversial from the start.

It happened weeks before she left office in June 2010 and was immediately questioned by her successor, current President Benigno Aquino.

image captionGloria Arroyo was stopped as she tried to leave the country in November

Mr Aquino has since accused the chief judge of repaying his appointment by trying to block efforts to investigate corruption allegations against Mrs Arroyo.

'Dangerous strategy'

The former president was arrested in November after being charged with rigging Senate elections in 2007, a claim she strongly denies.

The Supreme Court - under Mr Corona - had lifted a travel ban on Mrs Arroyo after which she tried to leave the country with her husband, saying she needed medical treatment.

She was pictured in a wheelchair at Manila airport trying to fly out, but the government ignored the court order and stopped her from leaving.

The impeachment motion passed on Monday said Mr Corona had "betrayed public trust through his partiality" by issuing a court order allowing Mrs Arroyo "an opportunity to escape prosecution and to frustrate the ends of justice".

Mrs Arroyo has a large team of lawyers fighting the allegations against her, which she says are politically motivated.

The former president has become the main target of her successor's campaign to eliminate corruption in the Philippines.

However, the BBC's Kate McGeown in Manila says President Aquino's current strategy could be dangerous, because it pitches the country's executive against its judiciary.

More on this story

  • Philippines' Gloria Arroyo speaks out on fraud charge