It’s Corona’s cousin who ‘buys’ Corona lot

Ayee Macaraig
Defense presents the buyer of the Coronas' Marikina lot, who turns out to be a cousin of the Chief Justice

THE BUYER. Corona's 2nd cousin Demetro Vicente testifies to say he bought the Coronas' Marikina property in 1990. Photo by Albert Calvelo/Senate Pool

MANILA, Philippines – The buyer of the Marikina property of the Corona couple testified for the defense team but it turns out he was actually family.

Demetrio Vicente faced the Senate on Tuesday, March 13, or Day 28 of the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona. The 70-year-old Vicente testified on Article 2, which accuses Corona of failing to disclose and accurately declare his assets and liabilities.

Vicente said he bought the 1,750-square meter lot in Marikina Heights from Mrs Cristina Corona on July 20, 1990. He said he paid P509,989 for the property. This lot was subdivided into 7 parcels.

Yet under cross-examination from private prosecutor Jose Justiniano, it was revealed that Vicente is actually a relative of the Chief Justice.

Asked what his “C” middle initial stood for, Vicente replied, “Coronado.” He later on admitted that he is the second cousin of Corona as their mothers are first cousins.

The defense did not disclose this when it presented Vicente.

A source close to the prosecution told Rappler they had no prior knowledge of Corona’s ties with Vicente. It was only when Vicente took the witness stand that Prosecutor Rep Elpidio Barzaga asked Justiniano to take the chance and ask Vicente about his middle initial.

The Marikina property, which is in Corona’s name to this day, is not declared in Corona’s SALNs. The only time Corona declared the property was in 1992 as a donation, or 4 years after he supposedly sold it to Vicente. (See Corona’s SALNs from 1992 to 2010 here.)

In a January 16, 2011 speech before the Supreme Court, Corona said his wife inherited the Marikina property from her parents. Corona, however, said the property was already sold to Vicente in 1988.

Alam na alam po ng LRA na ito’y binenta namin noong 1988 pa.” (The Land Registration Authority knows we sold this in 1988.)

During the trial, Vicente revealed that he bought another 1,700-square meter property adjacent to the lot, from Corona’s sister, Miriam Roco.

‘I can’t afford transfer’

In the early stage of the trial, the defense said the property was not declared in Corona’s SALN because it belonged to Vicente. Defense counsels said it was Vicente’s responsibility to have the property registered under his name.

In the trial on Tuesday, Vicente explained that he did not register the property under his name because he ran out of money and could not afford the fees.

Justiniano, citing a document, said in response, “Bayad na ang documentary tax stamp, ang capital gains [tax] bayad na. Kung bayad na, walang dahilan para hindi malipat ang titulo.” (The documentary tax stamp was paid for, so was the capital gains tax. If so, there’s no reason why the property should not be transferred.)

Vicente replied that the transfer tax has yet to be paid, and he could not afford it.

Corona’s second cousin explained that he sold a house-and-lot property in Tandang Sora, Quezon City for P3.5 million. He used the money to pay for the lots of Cristina Corona and Miriam Roco. The total price for the 2 lots was P1,018,00. He gave the payment to Mrs Corona, whom he said had a special power of attorney to act on behalf of her sister. 

Vicente said over the years, the rest of his money went to medical fees as he suffered a stroke. He used to earn money by renting out heavy equipment, but now earns only P25,000 a month from his wife’s apartment, and gets some cash from his daughter who is working overseas.

He stressed that the Marikina property was his. 

Vicente told senators, “Akin ho talaga ‘yun. Kahit bukas pumunta kayo doon, nandoon ako!” (It’s really mine. Even if you go there tomorrow, I’ll be there!) 

The prosecution attempted to show the property belonged to the Coronas and that the sale in 1990 was “simulated.”

Marikina titles  

Who really pays the tax?

During the cross-examination, Justiniano presented a document showing it was actually Mrs Cristina Corona who paid the official real property tax up until March 2010.

Justiniano also showed a document dated Sept 14, 2001 showing the official real property tax was in the name of Cristina Corona.

Asked about this, Vicente said, “Ako po ang nagbabayad ng tax sa pangalan ni Mrs Corona.” (I pay the tax in the name of Mrs Corona.)

Yet later on, lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas presented a document showing that as of this month, March 2012, it was Vicente who was already paying for the tax.

Corona was impeached on Dec 12, 2011.

Notary public unauthorized

In the cross-examination, Justiniano grilled Vicente about when and where the absolute deed of sale was notarized.

Vicente said this was done in 1990 in a Makati office but he could not remember the details, only that the Corona couple was with him.

Justiniano then presented a certification saying that the notary public, a certain Beatriz Mantoya, was not an authorized notary public in Makati.

Asked about this, Vicente said, “Hindi ko po alam ‘yun. Ngayon ko lang nalaman. Pwede kong i-demanda iyan!” (I don’t know that. I just found out. I can sue her!)

Asked who brought him to the notary public, Vicente said it was Mrs Corona. Justiniano then asked if Corona was there.

Hindi. Ay kasama pala,” replied Vicente. (No, oh wait he was there.)

Defense Spokesperson Tranquil Salvador III said the unauthorized notary public does not mean there was a discrepancy in the sale.

“If there is a small problem in the notarization, it doesn’t mean that the transfer of property is illegal. Remember that transferring property can be done voluntarily. At the same time, you don’t need a notary public. What’s important is that the parties agree on the sale of the title,” he said in Filipino. – Rappler.com