Monster Hunter Aquino

“We cannot expect Corona to be a sterling example of good governance,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda told Agence France-Presse just before the start of the trial, which is expected to take months.

“Removing him would be a vital cog in the president’s fight against corruption.”

Aquino won a landslide election victory in 2010 largely on a platform to end the corruption which has plagued the Philippines for decades and which he says got worse under the decade-long reign of his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Arroyo, 64, was arrested in November last year on charges of rigging the 2007 senatorial elections and is now awaiting trial in a military hospital where she is being treated for what she says is a rare spinal illness.

Aquino then marshalled his allies in Congress to impeach Corona, 63, last month largely over allegations that as top judge he had tried to protect Arroyo from prosecution, but also for alleged personal corruption.

Arroyo installed Corona, her former chief of staff, to the top judicial post shortly before she stepped down as president in a move that Aquino said ignored a constitutional ban on “midnight appointments” by outgoing leaders.

Public opinion polls show Aquino enjoys overwhelming backing for his anti-graft efforts and the bachelor president is widely regarded as himself not being corrupt.

However, his critics and even some supporters say Aquino has been employing unnecessarily bruising tactics.

Some have also accused him of overstepping constitutional boundaries while going after Corona, and say his attack on the chief justice has dangerously weakened the independence of the judiciary.

Corona, who has repeatedly accused Aquino of trying to move the Philippines towards a dictatorship, made a defiant speech on Monday morning to hundreds of court employees who remain loyal to him.

“My foes are strong and influential. They are using government agencies to pin me down,” he told a rally at the Supreme Court compound.

“I have not wronged the president. I have not wronged the public. I have not stolen anything from anyone.”

In an earlier television interview, he said “only death” could remove him from his post.

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