Prosecution: Corona’s posh condo not in asset statement

MANILA (Updated) — The value of Chief Justice Renato Corona’s properties is more than what he disclosed in his statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN).
This was what spokespersons for the House prosecution panel said after SALN records–later marked as evidence–were turned over to the Senate.
From 2009 to 2010, the worth of his real properties only increased by P4 million despite his purchase of a P14.5-million Bellagio penthouse, the prosecution panel said, citing his SALN.
The SALN records also showed that Corona’s real properties from 2003 to 2009 was only “around P14 million.” But in 2010, his properties were valued at P18 million, excluding the penthouse that he and his wife, Cristina owned.
The 303.5-square meter condominium unit was purchased on December 16, 2009 and the Condominium Certificate of Title was transferred in January 2010.
“His (Corona) SALN did not change from 2003 to 2009, you can only assume that several properties were not in SALN,” prosecution panel spokesperson Romero Frederico “Miro” Quimbo told reporters in a press briefing Wednesday.
“If he has five properties, it’s either these properties are valued at P1 million or P3 million each, which certainly is not the case,” Quimbo added.
Government and high-ranking public officials are required to file their SALN indicating their assets broken down into 1) real properties and 2) personal and other properties; liabilities (loans, mortgages, etc.; and net worth (total assets less total liabilities).
Corona earlier said he only owns five of the 45 properties he allegedly owns. The prosecution panel said records from the Land Registration Authority shows 45 properties were under the name of the Chief Justice and his family.
In his opening statement at the start of the impeachment trial, lead prosecutor Representative Niel Tupas Jr. presented some of the “prized pieces of the Corona crown jewels,” including properties in: 1) Spanish Bay, Bonifacio Ridge, acquired October 2005, purchase price P9,159,940; 2) McKinley Hill, Fort Bonifacio, acquired October 21, 2008, purchase price P6,196,575; 3) The Bellagio Tower, Taguig, acquired December 2009, purchase price P14,510,225; 4) The Columns, in Makati, acquired in 2004; 5) One Burgundy Plaza acquired in 2003, purchase price P2,758,000; and 6) Number 57 Maranao Street, La Vista, acquired in 2003, zonal valuation P20.4 million, sold to his daughter for only P18 million.
Tupas said they “will prove at the proper time” if the properties declared in his SALN records were grossly undervalued or undeclared.
“Properties stated in the SALN were not specific…However, there were no amounts stated, like for instance, the Bellagio property…In the 10 SALN records submitted, there was no mention of it (Bellagio),” Tupas told reporters in a briefing after the trial.
Corona’s net worth meanwhile are as follows: in 2002, he was worth P14.9 million; in 2003, P7 million; in 2004, P7 million; in 2005, P8 million; in 2006, P9 million; in 2007, 11 million; in 2008, P12 million; in 2009, P14 million; and in 2010, P22.9M.
Quimbo also said that the mere testimony of Supreme Court Clerk of Court Enriquetta Vidal that the SALN records were never disclosed to the public already shows that Corona is guilty of violating Republic Act 6713 or the “Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.”
“We cannot say that a mere SC circular is higher than the law,” Deputy Speaker Lorenzo “Erin” Tanada, another spokesperson for the prosecution panel, said.
During the trial, Vidal cited a court resolution dated May 2, 1989 which bars SC justices from releasing their SALN.
A September 1992 en banc resolution, issued during the term of Chief Justice Andres Narvasa, further denied the disclosure of the SALN of the members of the Judiciary.
Defense panel to object ill-gotten wealth charge
For its part, the defense panel will “vehemently object” to charges of ill-gotten wealth that the prosecution is expected to argue in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Corona, saying it is not included in the articles of impeachment.
Corona’s supposed ill-gotten wealth cannot be brought up in the trial since it has not been alleged, Serafin Cuevas, former Supreme Court Justice and Corona’s chief counsel, said.
He said the bases for the allegation are just reports, and not facts.
He said the defense has an option to go to the Supreme Court if the Senate allows the allegation of ill-gotten wealth is tackled.
Cuevas said, however, that he cannot say when, or even if, they will do that. He said the abuse of discretion has to be grave, for the Supreme Court to get involved. He said they might not be able to convince the Supreme Court to intervene “even if there is abuse, if the abuse is not grave.”
The prosecution has said any properties registered to Corona and not on his SALNs can be presumed ill-gotten.
“We are still on the (allegation of) filing,” Cuevas said, referring to the charge that Corona had failed to disclose his net worth while at the Supreme Court. It had earlier been established that of around 10 requests for disclosure of the SALN of Supreme Court justices since 1989, none had been granted.
Cuevas said the SALNs, which were turned over to the Senate Wednesday afternoon, were proof that Corona had complied with the legal requirement for government officials and employees to disclose their net worth. “The (issue of) non-disclosure is very light. We can handle it,” he told reporters at a briefing after the trial Wednesday.
Defense lawyer Dennis Manalo, meanwhile, dismissed the allegations–the prosecution had earlier asked the Senate to subpoena land titles and other documents related to 45 properties allegedly owned by Corona and his family–as having no basis. The defense has repeatedly said the properties include parking lots and old land titles that correspond to the same property.
Corona’s unit at the prime Bellagio condominium in Taguig City was declared, Manalo said. Corona, in his answer to the impeachment complaint, has also admitted to buying and owning the unit.
He added the Supreme Court has its own rules, like requiring clearance before SALNs are released, and is entitled to them, being an independent branch of government.
“Even in the House, there is a regulation to that effect,” he said. (Sunnex)

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