By Raïssa Robles
This contradicts the statement earlier made by Chief Justice Renato Corona’s lead lawyer that his client was still paying installment on his luxury condo to this day.
A Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) officer told me he personally signed a document in late 2009 which assumed that CJ Corona had fully paid up for his purchase of a 303.5 square meter penthouse and three 12.5 sq m parking space in Bellagio Tower 1 at The Fort.
“Ya, I think I signed the CAR (Certificate Authorizing Registration)” of the property in the name of CJ Corona and his wife Cristina, Makati Revenue District Officer Gerry Dumayas told me in an interview.
Dumayas confirmed he signed the certificate while he was the Revenue District Officer in charge of Taguig where The Fort is located.
I asked him if a CAR is only issued by the BIR once a unit is fully paid up.
That’s the assumption. Because one of the documents that has to be submitted (to the BIR before a CAR can be issued) is the Deed of Absolute Sale. A corporate developer will not issue (to the buyer) a Deed of Absolute Sale if the property is not fully paid up. Maliban lang kung may usapan sila. Madalang yon. Maaring hindi nangyayari. Nasa usapan nila yon.
Ang assumption ng BIR, bayad pag nag-request ng issuance of the CAR. Bayad yung binili.
He said the CAR is the final step before a buyer can register the property in his name with the Registry of Deeds.
Dumayas confirmed that he issued and signed the CAR for Corona’s property on December 17, 2009.
The following month, on January 25, 2010, four Condominium Certificate of Title (CCT) were issued in the name of “spouses Cristina Corona and Renato Corona, both of legal age, Filipinos” according to documents made available to me.
But why was the selling price for CJ Corona & the taxes he paid so low?
I asked Dumayas these two questions that have puzzled me about this transaction.
Dumayas explained to me that he based the taxes imposed on CJ Corona’s property purchase on the amount of P14.5 million – or the price at which developer Megaworld Corporation had sold the unit to the Corona couple.
I pointed out to him that BIR’s zonal valuation at The Fort was already at P100,000 per square meter at that time, while the zonal valuation he gave to CJ Corona’s unit was P6.8 million or only P21,021 per sq m.
Dumayas’ reply stunned me. He said that zonal valuation pertained only to the land at The Fort. Only the land there was covered by a zonal valuation issued by the BIR Commissioner:
Wala kaming zonal valuation pa sa mga bagong condo sa Taguig at that time (in late 2009).
Wala pang zonal value (for condos at The Fort) even at this time. I have already made a proposal that zonal values be revised. I submitted this in 2010.
To this day, he said, his proposal has not been acted upon.
He explained that in the absence of an official zonal valuation issued by the BIR Commissioner for condos at The Fort, the law requires the BIR to base computation of the tax on: the selling price of the property or the market/zonal value in the “tax declaration issued by the Assessor’s Office of Taguig City.”
Dumayas said that because the tax declaration for CJ Corona’s condo unit was lower than the selling price, then he used the selling price as basis for computing the documentary stamp tax and withholding tax.
I asked him why he did not question such a low selling price when other comparable condo units at that time were then selling at much higher prices. I told him that a realty broker and a source at a propoerty research firm separately told me that the average selling price of a condo unit at that time CJ Corona had bought his property was around P80,000 per sq m.
Kasi hindi naman namin puwedeng puwersahin. Oo nga, naririnig namin sa labas – yung selling ganito – but we have to rely on the documents being submitted.
And those are: the stated selling price and the tax declaration, he said.
I asked Dumayas when CJ Corona would have had to declare the property in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth or SALN – at the time of the purchase or the registration of the property in his name?
Dumayas said this would have to be declared in the CJ’s 2009 SALN that would have been submitted in the year 2010.
Taguig’s tax assessor explains reason for their low tax declaration
In a separate interview, Engineer Roberto Villaluz, who heads the City Assessor’s Office of Taguig, confirmed to me that indeed, their zonal valuation was THAT LOW for buildings at The Fort – only P19,200 per square meter – since 2008.
He said this is based on City Ordinance No. 47 or the Schedule of Fair Market Values for Improvement and Machineries.
This is the basis used by the city for computing the real property taxes due yearly, he said.
Whenever someone buys property, his office issues a “Tax Declaration” that is then submitted to the BIR for the issuance of a CAR, he said.
Villaluz also said that if CJ Corona has a Deed of Absolute Sale, then he has fully paid for the property:
If there is a Deed of Absolute Sale, that means the property has been fully paid. Or has been paid by the buyer.
I asked Villaluz what document could indicate that amortization was still being paid on the property. He said it would be a “Deed of Conditional Sale” drawn up between seller and buyer.
What CJ Corona’s lead lawyer said about the luxury condo
Last Monday, CJ Corona’s lead lawyer Serafin Cuevas insisted to the Philippine Daily Inquirer that the Corona couple were still amortizing the unit.
The Inquirer report said:
We already discussed that in our answer (to the articles of impeachment). We are not hiding anything. Until now, that is not yet fully paid,” he said.
Cuevas, however, admitted that he had yet to see the documents pertaining to the ownership of the Bellagio unit, saying: “If the Chief Justice was an ordinary person, I would have asked him to give me the documents.”
“But I believe he will give me all those things. We assume that when he told his lawyers that he was still paying for that, it was accurate and true.”
In today’s ABS-CBN News story, Cuevas said new allegations can no longer be raised in CJ Corona’s impeachment trial, such as the Bellagio property allegedly being given as a “gift” to him in exchange for a favorable court decision.
This was in reference to Corona’s purchase of the Bellagio condo from a corporation for which he had penned a favorable court decision in 2004.
However, some of my commenters have raised the issue whether CJ Corona also enjoyed immunity from criminal prosecution like the Philippine President during his tenure.
That’s a thought.
The Constitution is silent on this particular matter.