MANILA, Philippines – Property developer Megaworld was involved in 3 cases filed with the Supreme Court before Chief Justice Renato Corona purchased a P14.5-M condominium unit from the company in 2009. Corona’s acquisition of the pricey penthouse is one of the grounds raised in the impeachment complaint filed against him.
Noli Hernandez, senior vice president for marking and sales of Megaworld, initially told the impeachment court on Wednesday, January 31, that Megaworld lost in 2 cases in the SC. Corona concurred with the majority in both.
Hernandez, however, eventually admitted that Megaworld won in another case, and that the decision was penned by the embattled Chief Justice.
In March 2004, the SC ruled that Megaworld did not have to pay around P21-M to Matthew Jo and Ida Henares, who brokered a deal between Mary Cielo Leisure Resort, Inc. (MYC) and Megaworld.
Megaworld was supposed to develop the resort, but the project fell through following a civil complaint filed in 1996 by the brokers. The latter said both MYC and Megaworld were finding ways to avoid paying them broker’s fees.
The parties reached a compromise agreement where the brokers would be paid out of the share of MYC from the proceeds of the joint venture with Megaworld, but the project never materialized.
The SC ruled that because of this, Megaworld should not be obliged to pay for the balance of the P25-M brokers’ fee (Jo and Henares had been paid P3.9-M upon the signing of the compromise agreement).
Hernandez said the decision was issued 4 years before Corona bought the Bellagio unit in The Fort, Taguig, in 2008.
Losses for Megaworld
A year before the purchase, in 2007, the SC denied Megaworld’s petition for review for an adverse decision made by the Court of Appeals. As a result, the developer paid P26-M to Celerica Holdings Inc. The SC verdict against Megaworld in this case was unanimous.
In October 2009, Corona again concurred in a decision against Megaworld.
The SC ruled then that Megaworld had to pay Mila Tanseco P14-M, plus interest, for failing to turn over the condominium unit she brought within the agreed 6-month grace period. The P14-M represented Tanseco’s installment payment. Megaworld paid her a total of P21-M.
Hernandez said that Megaworld’s defeat in the above cases only proved that their transactions with Corona were aboveboard.
In a statement released on January 31, Megaworld said “it has never requested nor obtained any favor from anyone in the Court, including the Chief Justice who is presently standing trial.” The company was alluding to prosecution claims that Megaworld gave Corona a hefty 40% discount in Bellagio.
Antonio La Viña, dean of the Ateneo School of Government, said that since Corona penned the 2004 decision before he even bought the Bellagio property, there was no need for him to inhibit from the case.
But he said that the Chief Justice should not have met with the representatives of Megaworld at all because “a Supreme Court justice should not be meeting with individuals or representative of companies that could have cases potentially before them.”
La Viña said that this was meant not only to remove perception of partiality, but also because it posed an “actual conflict of interest” situation for the Chief Justice.
But Raul Pangalangan, former dean of the UP Law School, said that meeting with Megaworld’s people was inevitable for Corona, because “he [was] buying a property.”
He explained that since Corona concurred in cases where Megaworld lost, this alone deflects the argument that Corona used his post to get a discount from the property developer.
On January 30, Megaworld finance officer Giovanni Ng testified that Megaworld reduced a P24-M unit to P14.5-M for Corona, because it needed to fix certain defects in the unit.
Former UP law dean Pacifico Agabin said that the facts behind these cases should be assessed.
For example, he said, when did Megaworld gain or lose the most from the decisions made by the SC and which Corona either penned or agreed with?
In the SC verdict that Corona himself penned in 2004 favoring Megaworld, according to Agabin, the developer was saved from paying over P21-M. But in the succeeding cases that were decided against the company, Megaworld had to pay P47-M. – Rappler.com.