Probe Corona’s wife

Purple S. Romero
DOJ to conduct hearing on allegations that Cristina Corona used public funds for massage and salon services, among others

MANILA, Philippines [UPDATED] – More than a year after it was filed, the case against the wife of Chief Justice Renato Corona will be heard by the Department of Justice on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011.

The DOJ subpoenaed Mrs Cristina Corona to today’s preliminary investigation. She may choose not to attend and just be represented by her counsel.

The government probe begins amid an impending impeachment trial against the Chief Justice. It also makes public a little-known fact: that then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo pushed for the appointment of Mrs Cristina Corona as president of a government-owned corporation when her husband was associate justice of the Supreme Court.

The complaint against Cristina Corona stems from allegations she spent public funds for personal use, such as massage and salon services, and was improper in her conduct as board member and later president and chair of the government-owned John Hay Management Corp. (JHMC).

Frank Daytec, her former operations manager in JHMC, filed the case before the DOJ in 2010, a month after Mrs Arroyo stepped down from office. Daytec is now living in Canada.

But his lawyer and sister, Cheryl Daytec Yangot, told Rappler on Thursday that they might transfer the case to the Ombudsman after the DOJ required her brother to personally swear before the agency. She added that the option of going to the Office of the Ombudsman would remove complications in technicalities, as the institution can investigate even an anonymous complaint. 

Yangot said that Daytec originally wanted to file the case before the Office of the Ombudsman but opted not to because it was then under the helm of another Arroyo appointee, then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. The new Ombudsman is former Supreme Court justice Conchita Carpio-Morales.
 
Power couple

In 2001, after she assumed power through the Edsa 2 people power revolt, then President Arroyo named Mrs Corona to the board of directors of JHMC.

A year later, in April 2002, it was Mr Corona’s turn to get an appointment from then President Arroyo — as an associate justice of the High Tribunal.

In 2007, Mrs Arroyo wrote what has been reported as “I desire” letters to the board of JHMC, expressing her “desire” to have Mrs. Corona appointed as president and chairperson of the corporation. She eventually got the two positions that year.

In 2008, Daytec was appointed JHMC operations manager, a job that required him to review and approve the corporation’s various financial transactions such as disbursements, reimbursements and release of funds.

Daytec said that she discovered how mrs Corona used the funds of JHMC for her and her husband’s personal use. These allegedly include:

a. P14,560 worth of accommodation expenses in Baguio Country Club (BCC) in 2008
b. P12,516 worth of cafeteria concessions. Daytec claimed that then Justice Corona used his wife’s guest card for this.

Spa, massage
Daytec said that then Justice and now Chief Justice Corona should have been more prudent and circumspect by discouraging his wife from using public funds for their personal use.

“The Chief Justice, husband to Mrs. Corona for many years, is presumed to know his wife’s tendencies when it comes to money. Yet he co-enjoyed the facilities, amenities and goods at the Baguio Country Club without the least concern that his wife was into it again,” he wrote.

“Instead of making himself the restraining presence and injunctive wall between his wife and the funds of JHMC, he just let her be. In the company of a wife who pays no respect for the law, the Chief Justice should have observed utmost diligence in protecting the public funds about to be misused by his inamorata.”

Daytec added that Mrs. Corona also tried to reimburse personal expenses worth P99,000. He noted that these include, among others, her stay in BCC on April 26 and 27, 2010, the dates of the public interviews of aspirants to the post of chief justice. One of those scheduled to be interviewed then was her husband, according to Daytec.

Daytec also said that BCC sent billings to JHMC for expenses for massage, salon and spa services. The billings reportedly include hotel accommodation for  her son, Francis, also in BCC.

Daytec said in his complaint that in 2010, Mrs. Corona also demanded that the JHMC reimburse another set of expenses worth P117, 388.

Aside from this, the former JHMC operations manager said that Corona did not file her statement of assets, liabilities and networth.

‘Closeness to Arroyo’

Mrs. Corona has hit back. In her letter published recently in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, she said that Daytec filed the complaint against her after the JHMC board summoned him for allegedly using the corporation’s resources for personal use.

She added that Daytec knew about the corporation’s financial transactions and still approved them anyway.

Daytec said in his complaint, though, that he did not dare to question her way back in 2008 because he believed that due to the “closeness” of the Corona couple then President Arroyo, any complaint against them would be “whitewashed.”

Mrs Corona’s term at John Hay, which ended in July 2010, is part of the impeachment complaint filed by the House of Representatives against her husband. Citing conflict of interest, the complaint said Mrs Corona’s appointment to JHMC made the Corona couple personally indebted to then President Arroyo, who is now under house arrest over charges of election sabotage.

The Supreme Court had earlier lifted a government-imposed travel ban imposed on Mrs Arroyo and her husband, but the DOJ defied this, leading to the current standoff between the Palace and the High Tribunal.

On Dec. 14, 2011, Corona spoke to a huge crowd of supporters at the SC compound in Manila, lambasting President Aquino. His wife stood by him.

At one point in his speech, the embattled Chief Justice turned to his wife to thank her for her support. “Mahal na mahal kita,” he told her. – Rappler.com