Our Plaza Miranda Exclusive –
By Raïssa Robles
This point – raised by Senator Judge Ralph Recto – was probably the most interesting revelation in the four hour-long testimony on March 12 of CJ Corona’s buyer-cousin, Demetrio Vicente.
Defense out to prove genuine sale
Vicente’s direct testimony for the defense was devoted to proving that Cristina Corona really sold her Marikina property and therefore CJ Corona was justified in no longer reporting it in his SALNs when he became a member of the Supreme Court in 2002.
This was even though the country’s land records – maintained by the Registry of Deeds – still lists Mrs Corona to this day as the owner of seven parcels of land in Marikina totaling 1,700 square meters.
Last January 12 before the start of the impeachment trial, the prosecution had listed the Marikina properties as among CJ Corona’s “undeclared wealth”. House prosecution lawyer Jose Justiniano, who grilled Vicente, insisted that the sale between Vicente and Mrs Corona was merely “simulated”.
Note that the prosecution was then unaware that Mrs Corona had also served as an “Attorney-in-fact” in the sale of the adjacent Marikina lot owned by her sister Miriam Roco.
Vicente’s direct testimony was intended to destroy the argument of the prosecution and show that the sale of Cristina’s Marikina lot was a done deal even though Vicente had never transferred the property to his name.
Vicente vehemently denied during his testimony he was a “dummy”.
While Vicente looked and sounded credible as a witness, other points surfaced during the cross-examination by the prosecution and the Senator-judges, as well as during the redirect examination by the defense that made the Marikina transaction questionable.
For instance, Vicente said during his cross-examination by the prosecution that CJ Corona himself had stood as a “witness” during the July 26, 1990 signing of the Deed of Absolute Sale between him and Mrs Corona. And although both buyer and seller lived in Quezon City, the Deed was notarized all the way in Makati City by a certain Maria Beatriz Mantoya.
Vicente reveals during defense’ redirect there was actually a back-to-back sale
Vicente also revealed for the first time that a second Deed of Absolute Sale was notarized that same day. It was for the sale of 1,700 square meters of property owned by Cristina’s sister, Miriam.
Vicente claimed Cristina had a “Power-of-Attorney” from Miriam to sell the latter’s similarly-sized lot.
Thus, in all, Vicente said he had bought 3,400 square meters from both sisters.
But prosecution cast doubts on sale
The prosecution, however, cast doubts on the authenticity of that Deed of Absolute Sale between Cristina Corona and Vicente for here seven parcels of land. It obtained a document from the Makati Regional Trial Court saying:
This is to certify that in accordance with the records of this office, a certain Maria Beatriz S. Mantoya has never been commissioned by this court as notary public for and in the city of Makati.
In other words, Mantoya was a fake notary public when she notarized the Deed of Absolute Sale, thus rendering the document invalid as a public document but valid as a private contract between two parties.
Did CJ Corona and the defense lawyers know that Mantoya was not a genuine notary public when she notarized the Deed of Sale?
Four members of Our Cyber-Plaza Miranda – the ever growing community of commenters to this site – swiftly sent me vital leads that enabled me to get some of the answers.
Because of them, I was able to establish that:
The notary public is known to two of the defense lawyers – Eduardo de los Angeles and Tranquil Salvador – because Beatriz “Beth” Mantoya once worked in the same law firm as them – in Romulo Mabanta Buenaventura Sayoc & De Los Angeles law office.
Unfortunately, Atty. Salvador was “at mass” when I phoned him yesterday.
A commenter who goes by the handle “Sam” had pointed me to this fact. As well as to the fact that Beth Mantoya also worked at SGV around the same time as Corona did and she studied law at the Ateneo de Manila University around the same time that Corona taught there.
I have not been able to firmly establish though whether CJ Corona and Beth Mantoya were colleagues at SGV and whether Corona was Mantoya’s law professor.
Here is what Sam found in the law firm website: :
MARIA BEATRIZ S. MANTOYA, born 1961; admitted to the Bar 1987; Education: St. Paul College of Manila (B.S. Commerce, Accounting, Cum Laude, 1981), Ateneo de Manila University (LL.B.,1986); Certified Public Accountant (1982); Associations: Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants; Philippine Association of Hong Kong; Government Position: Confidential Attorney, Court of Appeals (1987-1988).
Another Plaza Miranda commenter gave me the lead where to look for Mantoya. I have to apologize though, because I can’t seem to find the original comment or e-mail that was sent to me. So I would like to ask the commenter to please post again to tell me who you are so I can acknowledge you.
The commenter had provided me with a link to this website:
Phoning the number that was posted, I confirmed that Beth Mantoya was now Beth Nejbo. The website was that of her company in Hong Kong but I was told she also lives in Sweden with her husband.
Last Thursday March 15, I e-mailed Atty Beth Mantoya-Nejbo to ask for a clarification on her role in notarizing the Deed of Sale. I have not received any reply to this day.
However, another highly knowledgeable source had this to say about Beth Mantoya-Nejbo:
She joined the firm (Romulo Mabanta Buenaventura Sayoc & De Los Angeles) as an accountant,not as a lawyer, in May 1991. She was hired as an accountant. Before that she was a tax attorney at SGV from March 1988 to April 1991.
When I asked whether notarizing documents was among her functions at Romulo Mabanta, he replied:
No, that was not one of her functions. It was not relevant if she was or was not a notary public because she joined as an accountant.
What the source said confirms that both Beth Mantoya and CJ Corona previously worked in the same section at SGV. She was a “tax attorney” while CJ Corona was “a senior officer of the Tax and Corporate Counseling Group of the Tax Division of Sycip Gorres and Velayo (SGV & Co),” according to his bio-data.
Recently, Cristina Corona allegedly told reporters in a text message something about Beth Mantoya:
She used to notarize documents in SGV. When she resigned from SGV, she joined Romulo Mabanta law office, which assigned her to Hong Kong for many years. She has since married a foreigner and last we heard she is now living in Switzerland with her husband.
I was, however, told by her office in Hong Kong that her other home was Sweden.