#CoronaTrial: Day 10

KD Suarez

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Day 10: Impeachment court tackles the Basa-Guidote loan by Chief Justice Corona

MANILA, Philippines – Here are the highlights of Day 10 of the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

2:03 pm: Session starts. Roll call: 19 senators present.

2:10 pm: Presentation of witnesses, evidence by prosecution continues. First witness is Benito Cataran, director of the Company Registration and Monitoring Department of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Direct examination by prosecutor Rep. Reynaldo Umali.

He is called to testify that the SEC revoked the franchise of the Basa-Guidote Enterprises, Inc. (BGEI) in 2003. The company was owned by the family of Mrs Cristina Corona, wife of the Chief Justice. The Chief Justice allegedly took an P11 million loan from the company in 2003, the same year that company’s license was revoked by the SEC.

2:18 pm: Cataran presents to the court the Articles of Incorporation of BGEI, registered in 1961. They contend, Mrs Corona is not a stockholder of the company.

Cataran presents documents pertaining to the company. He testifies that the SEC has no general information sheets and other reports, such as financial statements, from BGEI from 2002-2010, as was asked in the subpoena. He also testifies that since 1991, BGEI hasn’t submitted any reports. The latest filed documents date to 1990.

“The Certification of Registration of Basa-Guidote Enterprises has already been revoked,” Cataran tells court. This was due to the non-filing of general information and financial statements.

2:45 pm: Presiding Officer, Senator-judge Juan Ponce Enrile quizzes Cataran regarding the revocation of BGEI, specifically on whether the company has been dissolved already. Enrile asks for further clarificaiton. Legarda also asks about terminology: is revocation synonymous to dissolution? Is this an uncommon practice?

2:51 pm: Enrile orders Cataran to submit a legal memorandum to show that SEC has powers to dissolve a company due to non-compliance with the Corporation Code.

2:55 pm: Continued discussion on the revocation of BGEI. Senator-judges Enrile, Loren Legarda, Umali, and Cataran talk about the revocation.

Umali says that as of December 2003, there appeared in the Chief Justice’s SALN a cash advance of P11-M from BGEI, and that the loan was paid until 2010. Umali says Mrs Corona declared BGEI was into real estate, but this does not appear in government records. “This has relevance to truthfulness, accuracy of the SALN, he tells court.

3:02 pm: Enrile reiterates he wants memorandum from SEC.

3:03 pm: Cuevas speaks, and tells court that based on an SEC rule, a company can continue to exist (and do business) even if a revocation order is issued against it. Meanwhile, Umali contends that another SEC rule says revocation orders are effective immediately.

3:07 pm: Enrile reiterates order for a legal memorandum from the SEC. Prosecution continues questioning of Cataran.

3:12 pm: Enrile questions relevance of the BGEI’s revocation in the SEC to the trial. “Go to that point!” he tells prosecution.

3:13 pm: Senator-judge Alan Peter Cayetano asks, “Hindi corporation law ang pinag-uusapan dito, kundi whether or not nagpautang ang corporation,” he says. “Kahit patay na ang korporasyon, de-facto-wise, you can still loan money. What is the relevance?” He also asks whether cash advances are considered liquidation, the SEC official says, “I don’t think so, your honor.”

Umali answers, the topic is related to the truthfulness of the Chief Justice’s SALNs.

Enrile then tells prosecution that the court will take their opinion into consideration but they have not yet established connection to the proceedings.

Senator-judge Panfilo Lacson then raises a point: What was the status of BGEI between May 2003 and year 2010? “Ito ba patay na kasi pwedeng i-resuscitate?” he asks. Cataran says, in SEC opinion, it is already revoked.

Clarificatory questions by Senator-judges Drilon, Francis Pangilinan follow. Senator-judge Edgardo Angara also manifests, tells court that the confusion by the court is over the terminology used by Cataran (dissolution vs revocation). He says the revocation of license does not automatically mean the extinction of the company,” drawing from his knowledge of corporate law.

3:27 pm: Senator-judge Joker Arroyo admonishes prosecution: “If you are not sure of your evidence, please do not present it. That is all.”

3:29 pm: Senator-judge Pia Cayetano also asks clarificatory questions, still about the dissolution/revocation issue. She also asks prosecution: Is it your intention to prove that there was no transaction (referring to the P11-M cash advance)? Umali answers: yes, we want to prove transaction is “fictitious.” How can there be cash advances for someone who was not even a stockholder, Umali asks, referring to Mrs Corona.

3:33 pm: Prosecution ends direct examination of Cataran.

3:34 pm: Senator-judge Vicente Sotto III moves for a “15-minute” suspension of the proceedings. He says there will be a short caucus of the senators. Session suspended.

Defense holds presscon.

4:08 pm: Session resumes. Cuevas conducts cross-examination of Cataran.

Cuevas, then Enrile, ask Cataran about rules on revocation of corporations. He tells the court, the revocation of certificates of registration isn’t immediately executory due to room for appeals. At one point, Enrile tells Cataran, “I’m sorry to tell you, I’m teaching you corporation law,” after witness fumbles over the topic.

4:32 pm: Defense then presents a photocopy of the alleged P34-M check paid to BGEI by the Manila City government for the expropriation of a property owned by the company. Prosecution objects, says it is a mere photocopy, but Enrile overrules objection, and rules it could be exhibit for defense for the record.

4:34 pm: Prosecution redirects Cataran. Enrile then interrupts redirect, asks about secondary franchise.

4:39 pm: Redirect ends. Senator-judge Lito Lapid asks about the difference between a cash advance and a loan, and what the prosecution wants to show. Enrile confused, asks who should answer, Lapid says question is for prosecution.

Prosecution says they don’t understand the cash advance by Corona, and says it is what they want to know. Umali explains, they are trying to figure out where the cash came, so this is “unexplained wealth.”

Cuevas objects to Umali’s explanation, says it is related to Par. 2.4 of Article 2, which has been excluded already. Court rules for defense, reminds prosecution about the ruling. Umali says “sorry.”

4:43 pm: Escudero asks questions of Cataran.

4:47 pm: Cataran is dismissed from the witness stand. Next witness is called by prosecution: Ayala Land assistant vice president Nerissa Josef. Direct examination by private prosecutor Winston Ginez. Testimony is in relation to The Columns property of the Coronas in Makati

Josef presents to the court documents related to the Corona purchase. She also testifies, the unit at The Columns was fully paid in 2004, but was only “deemed accepted” in 2008. (Corona declared this property only in his 2010 SALN.)

5:15 pm: Josef is discharged. Third witness called by prosecution, but prior to witness taking the stand, defense counsel Ramon Esguerra presents an accompanying handwritten note from Mrs Corona, requests for it to be preserved. Enrile reiterates pre-marking of evidence.

Defense asks Josef be brought back for the cross-examination, because they thought there were no more witnesses after Josef for the day. She is recalled to witness stand, and defense conducts cross-examination.

Defense asks for the certificate authorizing registration for the Columns property of the Coronas.

Josef also reads correspondence between Mrs Corona and the company related to the sale of the property.

5:31 pm: Session suspended.

5:35 pm: Session resumes. Cross-examination resumes. Defense asks Josef about the correspondence. She testifies, based on the letters, that The Columns unit was “deemed delivered and accepted” as of February 2008, but says there was no actual acceptance by Mrs Corona.

She also testifies on the tax declaration for The Columns. This was dated “6-29-2007” (June 29, 2007). She also says there is no record of Mrs Corona receiving unit, or physically getting the keys. Defense then says the unit had numerous problems, citing leaks, unfinished windows, and other similar complaints from the Coronas.

5:53 pm: Redirect by prosecution.

5:59 pm: Redirect ends. Questions by Escudero, Drilon, and Francis Pangilinan.

Escudero, after asking Josef about the order of events in buying a property, then poses question to both defense, prosecution: When is a unit accepted by the buyer? He asks panels to submit a memorandum on the issue.

Drilon asks about the declaration of the unit in the SALN. Pangilinan, meanwhile, asks about the acceptance of the unit.

6:08 pm: Senator-judge Sergio Osmeña III asks Josef questions, in particular how much discount Ayala gave to buyers of The Columns units. Josef says about 10%.

6:12 pm: Josef is discharged. Osmeña asks for subpoena of date of Corona’s acceptance, transfer of title for properties. Meanwhile, memoranda from both sides to argue when ownership is defined will be submitted to court on Monday.

6:14 pm: Session is adjourned. Trial to resume Thursday, February 2, 2012, at 2 pm. – Rappler.com

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