10 truths according to CJ Corona

Chief Justice Renato Corona testifies before the court of public opinion. Here’s his version of the truth.

MANILA, Philippines – It’s one interview after another. He hops from one station to the next. What is this guy promoting? His innocence.

Chief Justice Renato Corona stuns his rivals and even his own lawyers as he goes on a media blitz just days before the Senate hears his side of the story. Critics are quick to condemn his 7 interviews and counting, calling his statements fitting of a politician and unbecoming of the country’s top judge. 

Yet Corona is not troubled. After all, he says, he is one of the most open chief justices in Supreme Court history. He also knows the nature of the beast. Corona agrees with GMA7 anchor Mike Enriquez that there are two trials ongoing.

Mas matindi ‘yung sa labas.” (The one outside the Senate is more intense.)

Whether or not he will face the impeachment court, Corona is already testifying before the court of public opinion. His statements on the merits of the case offer a preview of his lawyers’ presentation to start on March 12. (Read: The defense strategy)

Rappler reviewed his interviews to zero in on the arguments his lawyers will use. Here are 10 truths according to Chief Justice Renato Corona:

1. “My wealth matches my declared assets.”

Prosecutors describe Article 2 as the backbone of their case. This article accuses Corona of failing to disclose and accurately declare his assets and liabilities.

For the Chief Justice, that’s all black propaganda. “On the contrary, patutunayan ko ngang tugma eh, tugmang-tugma.” (I will prove that they match, they really do.)

Corona says the prosecution claims that his wealth does not match his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) because it is only looking at his salary. So how then could he buy a condominium?

Ang sinasabi nila ‘yung basic salary lang, eh syempre ‘yung basic salary talagang mababa iyon. Eh meron naman kaming mga allowances eh,” Corona told dzBB. (They are only looking at the basic salary, of course that’s really low. But we have allowances.)

Included in the list of witnesses his lawyers submitted are officials of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, Senate Electoral Tribunal, and the Supreme Court’s budget office to testify on his allowances.

“I will give an adequate explanation of each and every cent that came in and went out,” he says.

2. “I was a top executive. I came from a comfortable family.”

Aside from his salary and allowances, Corona says his personal wealth justifies his purchase of posh condominium units. He adds that claims that he was dirt-poor when he entered government are black propaganda.

Kalahati po ng buhay ko, ako naman ay top executive sa private sector na kumita naman po nang malaki doon.” (Half my life I was a top executive in the private sector and I earned a lot there.)

Corona also reiterates that his is a family of no ordinary means.

“I came from a comfortable family and so did my wife. I was not poor when I entered government,” he says in Filipino.

COMFORTABLE FAMILY. Chief Justice Renato Corona says he and his wife come from families with means. File photo by Emil Sarmiento

3. “I’m not directly involved in the Basa-Guidote dispute.”

Corona distances himself from the bitter family feud of his in-laws over Basa-Guidote Enterprises Inc (BGEI). Controversy surrounds the family corporation of his wife, with a dispute over land and money.

Hindi naman ako involved diyan sa problemang iyan directly no, kasi ako’y parang nadawit lamang dahil ako nga ay in-law no. At saka ako’y lawyer,” he tells GMA7. (I am not directly involved in that problem. I was just dragged into the issue because I’m an in-law and a lawyer.)

His wife’s cousin, Ana Basa, says otherwise. She says Corona attended several hearings and even got a cash advance from the company. 

MERE IN-LAW. Chief Justice Renato Corona says he has no direct involvement in the feud of his wife's clan. Photo of Ana Basa from the Philippine Daily Inquirer

4. “The Basas are not BGEI stockholders. They already got their share.”

While he says he is not directly involved, Corona comments about the family dispute. He says his wife’s uncle, Jose Maria Basa III, and aunt, Sister Flory Basa, were not stockholders of BGEI.

Jose Basa’s daughter, Ana, and Sister Flory have issued media statements saying the Coronas oppressed them and deprived them of company funds.

Hindi sila stockholder ng korporasyon eh pinipilit lang nila stockholder daw sila. Pero nakuha na nila ‘yung share nila kaya hindi na dapat sila eh parang sumasali pa rito.”  (They are not company stockholders but they insist they are. They already got their share so they should stop meddling.)

Corona’s wife, Cristina, claimed she was a stockholder, vice president, and assistant corporate secretary of BGEI as shown in various court documents.

5. “The P11 million loan is BGEI money.”

Corona says the P11-M he first declared in his 2003 SALN was a loan from BGEI, and not from his wife. This loan was used to pay some of his properties. He says he has fully paid the cash advance. 

The prosecution asked how Corona was able to obtain a loan from the company when the Securities and Exchange Commission revoked BGEI’s registration in the same year, 2003. Corona has an answer to that.

Kasi nag-expire na ang kanyang ano, pero the fact is andun pa ‘yung kanyang corporate property. Kung anu-ano pang ari-arian ng korporasyon andun pa rin ‘yun.” (Even if the license expired, the fact is the corporate property is still there. Whatever properties the company owns is still there.)

6. “The P30 million I withdrew was BGEI money.”

Corona also confronts questions about the over P30-M he withdrew from 3 Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank) accounts he closed on Dec 12, 2011.

’Yun nga ‘yung pera ng korporasyon (BGEI), pinagbentahan ng lupa.” (That’s the money of BGEI, coming from the sale of the land.)

Corona is referring to a 1,000 sq-m lot in Manila with a commercial building that his wife sold to the city government of Manila in 2001 for P34.7 million.

Asked why he did not declare the amount in his SALN, Corona says, “Because it’s not ours. It’s the corporation’s money. Will you declare in your SALN something that’s not yours? Of course not.”

LEAK SOURCE. Chief Justice Renato Corona is convinced that PSBank Katipunan branch manager Annabelle Tiongson is the source of the leak of his bank accounts. File photo from Senate pool

7. “Closure of 3 accounts on impeachment day just a coincidence.”

Corona also says the closure of the 3 accounts on the day he was impeached was pure coincidence.

“Nagkataon lang iyon kasi kung hindi namin nabalitaan na isa iyon sa articles of impeachment siguro hindi namin aalisin. Eh nabalitaan namin kasi may mga kaibigan din naman kami doon sa Kongreso na ito ang ebidensya.” (That’s just a coincidence because had we not known it was one of the articles of impeachment, we would not have closed the accounts. But we heard about it from our friends in Congress that this is the evidence.)

Corona adds that he lost his trust in PSBank, and suspects that it leaked his bank records

8. “I only have 5 properties.”

Attacking the prosecution, Corona again denies that he owns 45 properties as prosecutors have claimed.

“Only 5 properties are mine. You might have heard my speech in the Supreme Court. I discussed those properties one by one.”

In his speech on January 16, Corona said he acquired his properties through hard-earned money. He said the other properties in the list released by the prosecution were parking lots, belonged to his in-laws, or those already sold.

ERRONEOUS LIST. In a speech in January, Corona said the list of his reported 45 properties is erroneous. File photo by Purple Romero

9. “I will open my dollar accounts.”

One of the most contentious issues in his impeachment trial is his dollar accounts, the subject of a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court.

The Chief Justice, however, says he will live up to his promise to open these.

Sapul sa simula sinabi ko naman whether or not may TRO ang Korte Suprema ay ilalabas ko iyan sa takdang panahon. Ang takdang panahon ay beginning next week.” (From the start, I said whether or not there is a TRO, I will disclose that at the right time. The right time is starting next week.)

Corona’s lawyers though are blocking the prosecution’s move to open Corona’s dollar accounts. The defense team insists there is no contradiction between the move and Corona’s statements.

The Senate decided to admit both peso and dollar accounts of Corona as evidence. 

10. “Sereno is lying.”

Corona minces no words when talking about his colleague in the Supreme Court. Corona responds to questions about the dissenting opinion of Associate Justice Ma Lourdes Sereno.

The prosecution used Sereno’s dissenting opinion in Article 7, which accuses Corona of irregularities in the issuance of a TRO to allow the Arroyos to escape prosecution.

Corona describes as “professional propaganda” the attention given to Sereno’s dissenting opinion.

“The straight they make crooked and what is wrong they make it appear right, and the opinion that lost, they make it seem as if it won. It doesn’t work that way. We know that in the Supreme Court, the majority decision wins, not the dissent.”

Corona also denies giving Supreme Court Spokesperson Midas Marquez wrong information on the TRO to announce to the media.

“It was only Sereno who said that,” Corona says. “That’s why I was waiting for her to testify to prove that she is lying.”

LIAR? Chief Justice Renato Corona says Associate Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno lied in her dissenting opinion on the Arroyo TRO. Sereno is President Aquino's first Supreme Court appointee. File photo from RTVM

‘Prosecution is dreaming’

The prosecution rested its case after presenting only 3 out of 8 articles of impeachment. Prosecutors believe there is no need to lengthen the trial because their case is already strong.

Corona scoffs at the statement. “Hindi totoo ‘yun. Siguro sila ay nananaginip.” (That’s not true. Maybe they’re dreaming.)

The chief magistrate has full faith that his defense is solid, and asks viewers and listeners to wait and see.

After he goes off air and shakes the hands of his interviewers, it’s time for him to convince the actual judges. He and his lawyers will now have to make their case before the impeachment court. – Rappler.com

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