Inconsistencies in Corona’s Marikina property

Carmela Fonbuena
Or were the titles simply not updated?

MANILA, Philippines – Documents submitted to the impeachment court last week belie Chief Justice Renato Corona’s claim that he has no properties in Marikina City.

Rappler has obtained copies of 7 land titles in Marikina City registered under the Coronas. The titles, which were presented to the impeachment court last week, are registered under “Ma. Cristina R. Corona, married to Renato C. Corona, both of legal age, Filipinos.”

The Transfer Certificate Titles have the following Numbers: N-97119, N-97120, N-97121, N-97122, N-97123, N-97124, and N-97125. The lots appear to be contiguous judging by their lot numbers: Lot 13-A-1 to Lot 13-A-7 situated in Barangay Marikina Heights.

Marikina Titles

On January 16—hours before his impeachment trial convened—the  Chief Justice delivered a speech, saying he owns only 5 of the 45 properties enumerated by the prosecution panel. These properties are reflected in Corona’s 2010 Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN), namely a house and lot in Quezon City; a  condominium in Quezon City, a condominium in Makati, and two condominiums in Taguig.

(Four of the five properties appear to be underdeclared, too.)

In his speech, the Chief Justice did mention a 1,750-square-meter Marikina property which his wife supposedly inherited from her parents.

But he said it was already sold to a certain Demetrio Vicente in 1988. “Alam na alam po ng LRA na ito’y binenta namin noong 1988 pa,” he said. He added that this was specified at the back of the titles.

(In his speech, the Chief Justice cited title number N-85804. This is the original title that was later broken down into seven titles.)

No such markings

No such markings exist.

And as late as 1992, or 4 years after the supposed sale of the Marikina property, Corona declared a Marikina property in his SALN. He registered it as a donation. It was the only time that Corona declared a Marikina property. It disappeared in the succeeding SALNs. (See Corona’s SALNs from 1992 to 2010 here.)

Yet, existing titles still point to him and his wife as the owners of the above-mentioned lots in Marikina. The only markings at the back of the 7 titles are notes that they were microfilmed in 1990.

In a telephone interview, Rappler asked prosecutor Elpidio Barzaga Jr. if it’s possible that the titles were not updated to show that they had been sold.

“That’s legally impossible… No document was presented up to the present to the Register of Deeds of Marikina to show that the property being covered by the title has been transferred to another person either by sale, donation, or succession” Barzaga said.

“Since the Corona spouses are the registered owners of the Marikina properties, under the principle underlying the torrens system, the Corona spouses have incontrovertible titles over the properties and it operates as a constructive notice to the whole world that the Coronas as the owners of the property,” Barzaga added.

Barzaga is scheduled to continue his direct examination of the Marikina register of deeds on Tuesday, January 24, when the impeachment court resumes trial.

Defense move

But the defense panel intends to block the prosecution from continuing to present Corona’s properties.

Defense counsel Ramon Esguerra told Rappler that they will file on Tuesday morning a memorandum seeking to ask the impeachment court if prosecution “should be allowed” to “continue” presenting evidence on the alleged ill-gotten properties of Corona. 

Defense claims that this is beyond the spirit of Article 2 of the Articles of Impeachment, whose title states: “Respondent committed culpable violation of the Constitution and/or betrayed the public trust when he failed to disclose to the public his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth as required under Sec. 17, Art. IX of the 1987 Constitution.” – Rappler.com