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CJ’s wife snubs Ombudsman’s letters

Carmela Fonbuena
[EXCLUSIVE] The Ombudsman sent first of 3 letters to Cristina Corona in August 2009

[EXCLUSIVE] The Ombudsman sent its first letter to Cristina Corona in August 2009

MANILA, Philippines – After Chief Justice Renato Corona’s wife, Cristina, snubbed two of its earlier letters,  the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon on Monday sent her a third letter seeking her comment on a complaint filed against her.

Mrs. Corona is accused of malversation of public funds and grave abuse of authority while she was head of John Hay Management Corporation (JHMC) in Baguio City. The case was filed in May 2009 by former JHMC PR officer Nonette Bennett.

“Kindly submit to us your comment, with supporting documents (certified true copy) within an extendible period of ten (10) days from receipt. Failing which, we shall consider your continued failure to submit comment as a waiver of your right,” the letter said.

Ombudsman to Cristina Corona  

The letter is dated December 23 but Mrs. Corona’s camp received it only on Monday. The 10-day extension will end on January 10.

Bennett’s complaint was based on a Commission on Audit (COA) report on the financial operations of JHMC in 2008, where the audit agency enumerated questionable expenditures by JHMC. Mrs. Corona served as JHMC president from 2007 to 2010.

The letter was signed by Wilfred Candelaria, director of the Ombudsman’s Public Assistance and Corruption Prevention Office.

The first two letters sent to Mrs. Corona to ask for her comment were sent on the following dates: August 8, 2009 and October 13, 2009.

The 2008 COA Annual Report on JHMC found, among others, the following questionable expenditures:

1. The existence of a JHMC extension office in Manila, which COA said was not necessary because all the business operations of JHMC are conducted in Baguio. For 2008, COA noted at least P1-million unnecessary rent, transportation, and salary expenses in the Manila office.

2. The P10,000 monthly representation and transportation allowance for the Chairman and JHMC board members without the required approval of the Office of the President.

More complaints

Bennet’s complaint is separate from the case filed by former JHMC operations manager Frank Daytec Jr. against the Corona couple before the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Daytec accused Mrs. Corona of misusing about P170,000 of JHMC funds. This amount supposedly includes P93,000 questionable reimbursements to Mrs. Corona, which included the Chief Justice’s personal expenses at the Baguio Country Club.

Mrs. Corona is not the sole respondent in the Daytec case. The Chief Justice is also a respondent in the case because his expenses at the Baguio Country Club were among the items his wife reimbursed.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona with wife Cristina

Mrs. Corona was also cited in the impeachment complaint filed against the Chief Justice. Under Article III of the impeachment complaint, the congressmen–acting as complainants–questioned why the Chief Justice allowed his wife to receive the appointment of former President Arroyo.

The complaint said it is a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct and thus considered as culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.

The appointment was obviously a favor to Mrs. Corona, the complaint said. Despite several complaints against Mrs. Corona, President Arroyo refused to remove her from office.

In media interviews, Mrs. Corona denied allegations that she misused JHMC funds. – Rappler.com