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MANILA, Philippines - (UPDATE 5 - 6:21 p.m.) After capping nearly three hours of testimony by signing a conditional waiver to bare all his assets, Chief Justice Renato Corona threw the Senate impeachment court into disarray after he abruptly stood up and left the session hall.
Corona's sudden exit angered Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile who warned Corona's lead counsel, retired Justice Serafin Cuevas, to instruct his client to return to the court, saying he would not brook "any disrespect for this court" and ordering session suspended.
Enrile also ordered the Senate building locked down, preventing anyone from entering or leaving.
He abruptly stood up and asked "to be excused" before walking out, stunning the court and prompting Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile to bang the gavel.
Enrile sternly warned chief defense counsel Serafin Cuevas to instruct his client to return, saying he will not brook "any disrespect for this court," and said the court had been very patient.
Dr. Constantino Castillo, Corona's son-in-law, said the magistrate, a diabetic, had suffered hypoglycemia, or a sudden drop in his blood sugar, and had not taken lunch before appearing at the Senate.
“He’s feeling better now,” Castillo said.
Chief Justice Renato C. Corona was seen by an officer of the Senate Journal Division shaking after his nearly three-hour speech at the impeachment trial Tuesday afternoon.
“He was really shaking, I don’t know why, kaya siya siguro lumabas (maybe that’s why he left),” Josephine Codilla, senior supervising legislative staff officer of the Senate Journal and Reporter Division.
Codilla said Corona was a classmate in one of the subjects when she was taking up her doctoral degree on public administration at the University of Sto. Tomas, where the Chief Justice also finished his doctorate in law in 2004.
“Fifteen minutes before the end of my speech, I am really fainting and I( don’t want to faint inside the session hall,” Codilla recounted what Corona told her.
At this point, she said she told Corona, “Good luck sir.”
Television footage showed that Corona went to the south lounge of the Senate. After about 30 minutes, he was taken to the Senate clinic in a wheelchair.
Corona lawyer Judd Roy said the Chief Justice had no intention of walking out of the proceedings and remained ready to undergo cross examination.
Defense lawyer Dennis Manalo, who was among dozens of people locked out of the building when Enrile ordered it sealed, admitted that they were "stunned" by the suddenness of Corona's action but added that, as far as he could ascertain, the Chief Justice felt "disrespected" by a group led by civil society leader Lea Navarro, who allegedly heckled him when he was hurling his challenge for Drilon and the prosecutors to sign similar waivers.
Manalo said he rushed outside thinking Corona had left the building.
Senator Pia Cayetano tweeted that the senators had met in caucus to discuss the "sudden disappearance of the witness." (Joseph Holandes Ubalde, Karl John C. Reyes, Abigail Kwok and Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, InterAksyon.com)