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Defense: Corona earned ‘tax-exempt’ income

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Prosecution insists the Coronas' declared income could not justify houses they bought

MANILA, Philippines – The impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona enters its 7th day on Thursday, January 26, with the defense raring to demolish prosecution evidence that showed Corona’s declared income did not provide him capacity to pay for his properties.

The defense panel has a simple answer to this. The Coronas borrowed, sold old properties, and, in the case of the Chief Justice, received “allowances” from the Court that were tax-exempt.

On Wednesday, Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares took the witness stand to say that in 2010, Corona’s declared gross income was P657,755.57 – the biggest income he has received from the SC since he joined the Tribunal in 2002. The gross pay he received in the years before this were slightly lower.

She also revealed that Mrs Cristina Corona, registered buyer of some of the properties they have acquired, became a registered taxpayer only in 2003, when she bought a 1,200-sq-m lot in posh La Vista subdivision in Quezon City.

Henares also identified the following BIR property registration documents:

1. A La Vista lot bought by Mrs Cristina Corona in 2003 for P11-M;

2. A condo unit in Burgundy, Quezon City, bought by the Corona couple in 2003 for P2.5-M;

3. The Columns condominium unit, Ayala Ave, Makati, bought by Mrs Corona in 2004 for P3.6-M;

4. A condo unit in Global City (Bonifacio Ridge), Taguig, bought by Mrs Corona in 2005 for P9.1-M;

5. A condo unit in Bellagio Tower, Taguig, bought by Corona and Mrs Corona in 2009 for P14.5-M;

6. Share of stock in the Palms & Country Club Inc. bought by the Corona couple in 2011 for P700,000
The prosecution has said that the documents presented on day 6 of the trial showed that the properties were out of proportion to Corona’s salary as a public official.

Based on his 2010 Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN), Corona declared a net worth of P22,938, 980.00, the bulk of which consists of real estate properties amounting to P18, 438, 980.00.

But the defense is expected to argue that he has legally acquired all these properties.

Other income

When Henares takes the witness stand again on Thursday, according to defense counsel Ramon Esguerra, she “must at least be asked 2 things: One, compensation income does not include allowances that are tax exempt. Two, anyone can acquire property such as by inheritance or borrowing, and such property may be sold after.”

Esguerra explained that Corona borrowed P11-M from his wife’s family corporation to pay for their La Vista lot in 2003. He also said that the Coronas sold their Ayala Heights lot for P8-M. “Do not forget too that Marikina lots inherited by Mrs Corona were sold, proceeds of which went into savings or used to buy another property.”

But a review of Corona’s SALNs shows that the Coronas declared only his sale of La Vista in 2010.

In his 2010 SALN, Corona wrote: “Note: We sold 2 parcels of land in QC [presumably La Vista – eds] to purchase/pay the loans for condo units 4 and 5, referring to the condo units in Taguig.

On the Coronas’ Marikina properties, the documents attached to them are inconsistent.

The Chief Justice declared in a January 16 speech that they sold, in 1988, a 1,750-square-meter Marikina property which his wife supposedly inherited from her parents.

But in his 1992 SALN, or 4 years after the supposed sale, Corona still declared this Marikina property as a “donation.”

The 7 land titles attached to this property, which were submitted to the impeachment court last week, also did not indicate any proof of sale.

Also subpoenad for Thursday’s trial is an officer from the Securities and Exchange Commission, who was asked to bring documents pertaining to Mrs Corona old family corporation.

The prosecution has also subpoenad documents from at least 4 banks where the Coronas have deposits. –

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