6 inconsistencies in Corona’s testimony

Carmela Fonbuena

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Chief Justice Renato Corona's opening statement in his own trial is riddled with inconsistencies

MANILA, Philippines – Chief Justice Renato Corona’s walkout Tuesday, May 22, eclipsed his testimony. In his opening statement that lasted 3 hours, the impeached Chief Justice  accused the government of a conspiracy against him and described a report on his dollar accounts as a “malicious lie.”

But Corona’s statement was riddled with inconsistencies, particularly when he talked about the Basa-Guidote Enterprices Inc, the disputed family corporation of his wife Cristina.

We noted at least 6 inconsistencies in the Chief Justice’s statement before the court.

1. They live a simple life?

Corona said his family lives a simple life. They rarely use the air-conditioner and they don’t have any househelp.

Simpleng buhay at tahahan lamang. Hindi man kami gumagamit ng aircon sapagkat napakadali naming magkasakit sa lamig. Simpleng pagkain lamang ang kinakain namin sa bahay. Sa maniwala man kayo o hindi, kami po ay walang katulong sa bahay,” Corona said.

But Corona’s reimbursements in the Supreme Court tell a different story. He dined in fancy restaurants and wore expensive Barong Tagalog, among others.

Among the documents that the prosecution panel has are the following:

  • Corona’s reimbursement of P15,362.37 for a meal at Century Tsukiji restaurant on June 20, 2010. The receipt was under the name “Renato/Cristina Corona.”
  • Corona’s reimbursement of P20,400 and P25,000 for Barong Tagalog purchased at Rustan’s store Design Exchange Corp.
  • A reimbursement of P100,000 for the “purchase Christmas gifts of the Chief Justice”

Receipts of his reimbursements were part of the evidence that various commercial institutions submitted to the Senate impeachment court based on a request from the prosecution.

Article 3 of the impeachment complaint accuses Corona of “failing to meet and observe the stringent standards… that provides that “a member of the judiciary must be a person of proven competence, integrity, probity, and independence.”

“Respondent reportedly dipped his hands into public funds to finance personal expenses. Numerous personal expenses that have nothing to do with the discharge of his official functions, such as lavish lunches and dinners, personal travels and vacations, and fetes and parties, have reportedly been charged by the Respondent to judicial funds. In essence, Respondent has been reportedly using the judicial fund as his own personal expense account, charging to the Judiciary personal expenditures,” reads the complaint.

The prosecution did not present them as evidence anymore after presiding officer Juan Ponce Enrile barred them from discussing peripheral allegations.

Corona also owns two condominiums in upscale The Fort in Taguig City. He purchased his unit in Bonifacio Ridge in 2005 for P9.1-M.

He purchased his unit in Bellagio in 2009 for a “reduced” price of P14.5-M. Condominium builder Megaworld gave the Chief Justice a discount of P10-M  supposedly considering the damage in the unit that was caused by a typhoon.

2. Daughter Carla took a risk in buying the BGEI shares?

The Chief Justice took lengths in explaining how his daughter Carla took a risk in buying the shares of the disputed family corporation. She was at that time supposedly looking for a suitable investment for her savings.

A risk for P28,000?

Carla was the lone bidder in the public auction of 91% of the toal BGEI shares. For P28,000 she acquired a property with an asset of at least P34.7-M. This is what the Manila City Hall paid the corporation in 2001 to purchase a BGEI lot in Sampaloc, Manila.

Corona said Carla was willing to bid up to P50,000.

BGEI was dragged into the impeachment trial because of Corona’s 2003 Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) declaration that he took an P11-M loan from the corporation. His defense lawyers argued it’s the BGEI money that allowed the Coronas to purchase high-end properties in La Vista in Quezon City and Bellagio and Bonifacio Ridge in upscale The Fort, Taguig City.

The same BGEI money was used to justify his multi-million peso-deposits earlier divulged by officials of the Philippine Savings Bank and the Bank of the Philippine Islands.

It seems it’s a loan the Chief Justice did not really need, given Corona’s admission Tuesday, May 22, that he has dollar investments which he said he’s not obliged to disclose.

3. Jose Maria Basa III eased out Cristina Corona’s mother in a dispute involving a P2.5-B worth of property in Libis.

In his testimony, Corona introduced a new twist in the BGEI family dispute. He claimed that the root of the family dispute was a property in Libis where Jose Maria Basa III supposedly eased out his own sister Asuncion Basa-Roco, mother of Mrs Corona.

Hindi po si Mr. Jose Maria Basa ang naapi. Sya po ang nang-api sa aking mother-in-law at sa pamilya ng aking mother-in-law,” Corona said.

But according to Rappler editor-at-large Marites Vitug, this is inconsistent with Mrs Corona’s court testimony in relation to the BGEI case. Vitug is the author of bestseller “Shadow of Doubt.” She continues to follow the workings of the Supreme Court.

“It was very clear in the court transcripts when Cristina testified in one court case. She said and I quote “My grandmother bought the 2-hectare property in Jose Maria Basa’s name,” Vitug said in an interview with Rappler executive editor Maria Ressa on Tuesday’s newscast.

“So if you can go back to this, there are a lot of loopholes in his testimony,” Vitug added.

4. BGEI’s ugly history encouraged them to invest in cash instead of real property

Corona said the family dispute over BGEI taught them lessons and discouraged them from real property investments. They preferred cash, thus their foreign currency investments.

Corona also said they started investing in foreign exchange in the “late 60s” when the “dollar exchange was P2 to $1.”

The family dispute, however, only began after the 1983 death of the family matriarch Rosario Guidote Vda. De Basa, the founder and the majority shareholder of BGEI.

5. He started investing in foreign exchange in the late 60s when US$1 was equivalent to PhP2?

The Twitter world was quick to react to Corona’s recollection of his early years as foreign exchange investor. He supposedly started in the late 1960s when US$1 was equivalent to PhP2?

First, Undersecretary Manolo Quezon of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO) noted that peso devaluation began in the administration of the late President Diosdado Macapagal, who was president from 1961 to 1965.

And second, Corona was still a college student in the late 1960s. He graduated in college in 1970.

6. I have no 82 bank accounts.

Corona admitted before the impeachment court that he has dollar accounts. But he said it’s not 82 as Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales had claimed. As of December 2011, he had four dollar accounts, he said.

But it’s a technicality. Using the Ombudsman’s own PowerPoint presentation, Corona showed how the 82 different accounts were used for dollar time deposits but which he immediately closed after the investments matured.

Corona never disputed the transactions stated in the Anti-Money Laundering Council report cited by the Ombudsman. Citing the confidentiality of foreign deposits, Corona said he has no obligation to declare his dollar accounts.

In February, PSBank president Pascual Garcia III confirmed at least 5 dollar accounts of Corona. Before he could divulge the details, the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order stopping the Senate court from looking into his dollar accounts.

According to the prosecution, Corona’s walkout after his testimony was premeditated to avoid cross-examination. –Rappler.com

Click on the links below fo more stories on the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Corona.

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