#CoronaTrial: Day 9

KD Suarez

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Day 9: Megaworld official testifies about the 'discount' issue surrounding the Bellagio penthouse of the Coronas

MANILA, Philippines – Here are the highlights of Day 9 of the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

1:59 pm: Session starts. Roll call: 17 senator-judges present. Senator-judge Miriam Defensor-Santiago is still absent.

2:05 pm: Prosecution asks impeachment court if defense has complied with the submission of lists of witnesses, evidence; Defense says they will submit their list within the day.

2:08 pm: First witness of the day (and the 10th witness in the trial) is Benito Cataran of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Direct examination by Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali.

Before he takes to the stand, Senator-judge Pia Cayetano asks a clarificatory question to the court about the testimony of Megaworld’s Giovanni Ng the previous day. Should his tesimony be considered hearsay?

Enrile then quizzes Umali about the relevance of the SEC in the case. He says they will talk about the Basa Guidote Enterprises Inc. issue and how it relates to Article 2. However, Enrile demands to have the Megaworld official, subpoenaed on Monday, to take the stand instead. 

2:19 pm: Session suspended to sort out order of witnesses.

2:20 pm: Session resumes. Now on witness stand is Megaworld Senior Vice President for Marketing and Sales Noli Hernandez. Direct examination by private prosecutor Joseph Joemer Perez. Perez says Hernandez’s testimony will try to prove that spouses Corona bought and acquired condominium unit in Bellagio was bought for P14.5 million, with 40% discount.

Hernandez testifies Coronas bought property in September 2008, and explains why it was priced at P14.5-M. He testified that the unit was delivered as “semi-bare,” after sustaining some water leakage due to a typhoon, hence the discount.

“From P24 million, I adjusted the price to P19.6 million because that’s how much it costs to have it redone,” he tells court. Hernandez then explains the further reduction of the selling price to P14.5 million.

Megaworld would never have given that reduction in price, had it not been due to typhoon damage, says Hernandez.

2:43 pm: Senator-judge Pia Cayetano says they have been discussing the “discount” for more than 30 minutes, and asks its relevance to Article 2. Perez says the testimony is to show the Bellagio property was grossly undervalued in the SALN of the Chief Justice.

2:50 pm: Direct examination ends. Cross examination by defense counsel Serafin Cuevas.

2:52 pm: Senator-judge Ferdinand Marcos Jr. raises a point of order: What do these testimonies about the reduced price or “discounts” have to do with Article 2 of the Articles of Impeachment, which is about the non-disclosure of the Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALNs)? He asks prosecution to answer. Perez offers to answer, but Cuevas reminds them only public prosecutors can answer questions of law, so Rep. Elpidio Barzaga answers. He tells court that they would like to find out whether or not SALNs include necessary amount of cash to cover repair.

“What we are discussing is something else entirely [from SALN]. How does the testimony impact upon the situation?” he asks.

3:00 pm: Senator-judge Franklin Drilon then tells court, the law contemplates the truthful, accurate disclosure of SALNs.

3:04 pm: Senator-judge Alan Peter Cayetano says that the it is clear that the ill-gotten wealth issue should not be discussed. He also says, they have to be careful with making accusations, since Megaworld is a publicly-listed company, and could be affected.

3:09 pm: Defense ends cross-examination. Clarificatory questions from several senator-judges.

Senator-judge Jinggoy Estrada asks about the damage in the unit, and if discounts are given to VIPs. Senator-judge Sergio Osmeña III asks to subpoena the price lists of the Bellagio units. He also asks Hernandez about insurance details, and possible losses due to the price reduction. “A developer will never turn over a unit not finished,” he adds.

3:24 pm: Senator-judge Ralph Recto now asks clarificatory questions to the prosecution, with Rep. Barzaga answering. He also raises point about zonal values of properties.

3:32 pm: Recto suggests amending the order of proceedings of trial: He suggests that instead of waiting for the prosecution to present and argue all the 8 articles before the defense panel could present their own, both sides should be able to argue per article.

3:37 pm: Senator-judge Francis Pangilinan now asks clarificatory questions to Hernandez. He asks for the engineer’s report on the damage to the Bellagio unit. He also asks about the interested buyers for the unit, and the pricing of the other penthouse units in the building.

“At the time of water damage, I was told there was an interested client, Mrs. Corona,” Hernandez tells court.

3:44 pm: Pangilinan ends questioning. Drilon inquires if the court will issue a subpoena for the documents being requested by Sen. Osmeña. Hernandez says no need, he will produce documents. He is also going back tomorrow, February 1.

3:46 pm: Senator-judge TG Guingona asks prosecution some clarificatory questions. Private prosecutor Perez answers. Prosecution says the Bellagio unit should have been declared in the 2009 SALN, but was only put in 2010. The SALN also does not indicte acquisition cost, actual market value, they contend.

3:53 pm: Senator-judge Manuel Villar tells the court that a 40% discount in sellling property is not unusual. “Many factors govern pricing,” he says, citing a recent offer by property developer SMDC.

3:56 pm: Senator-judge Francis Escudero suggests that the parties, not the senators, should ask for the subpoena of documents, referring to the earlier discussion about the documents being asked by Osmeña.

4:06 pm: Session suspended “for 15 minutes.” Senator-judge Panfilo Lacson to speak next.

4:32 pm: Session resumes. Lacson manifests, asks prosecution about fair market value as declared in the SALN. He says that the Taguig City assessor should be the one to testify if fair market value on SALN is correct.

Lacson asks Hernandez about the cases Megaworld had before the Supreme Court.

Estrada asks: Any other pending cases at the Supreme Court? Hernandez says, none that he knows of.

4:49 pm: Senator-judge Koko Pimentel then manifests, tells prosecution to “let go” of the issue on the “discount.” “Wala talaga ang discount sa Articles of Impeachment. Please, ‘wag niyo nang pilitin. Payong kapatid,” he appeals.

4:50 pm: Senator-judge Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr asks questions to Hernandez, specifically on the lowered price of the Bellagio unit – he asks why the unit was sold at P14.5 million if there was a 15% discount for the P19.6 million property. Hernandez says there was an additional P1 million discount given to Corona, the only special discount given.

4:55 pm: Senator-judge Joker Arroyo manifests, asks prosecution about the impeachment complaint versus SC Justice Mariano del Castillo. He said he read a report that the House is planning to pursue it, and he is worried that the Senate will be burdened with two impeachment cases. “We are disturbed… do you expect the Senate to also attend to that?”

Tupas answers, no, they don’t intend to, and says report is inaccurate.

5:04 pm: Session adjourns. Trial to resume at 2pm on Wednesday, February 1, 2012. – Rappler.com

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