Our Plaza Miranda Exclusive –
By Raïssa Robles
Senator-Judge Ralph Recto told lawyer Serafin Cuevas last week that his client, Chief Justice Renato Corona, must testify at his own impeachment trial.
Recto made this statement after asking retired Justice Cuevas the following questions regarding Cristina Corona’s sale of a 1,700-square meter Marikina property in July 1990 to her husband’s cousin Demetrio Vicente:
Senator-Judge Recto: One question to the lead of the defense counsel. Ang dahilan kung bakit pinaharap niyo ang testigong ito (Vicente) ay para patunayan na and lupang ito ibinenta noon 1990. Tama ba yon?
Ex-Justice Cuevas: Tama po yon.
Senator-Judge Recto: At kung bineneta noong 1990, hindi na dapat inilagay sa SALN (Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth) ni Chief Justice Corona after 1990?
Ex-Justice Cuevas: It should be that way.
Senator-Judge Recto: It should be that way. Nguni’t doon sa SALN ng Chief Justifce noong 1992, bakit nandoon pa rin nakalagay yung property ng Marikina?
Ex-Justice Cuevas: Kasi nga hindi niya idinedeclare. Because the purchaser has not declared it in his name. So the records of whether the Register of Deeds or the Assessors Office show that they are still in the hands of the original owner.
Senator-Judge Recto: Bakit noong 1993 tinanggal na?
Ex-Justice Cuevas: Again, again, again? I didn’t hear.
Senator-Judge Recto: Kung yun ang paliwanag ninyo. Ulitin natin. Nabanggit ninyo na ibinenta ito. At mukha namang totoo. Binenta noong 1990. Ang tanong ko, bakit sa SALN ng Chief Justice, noong una siyang pumasok sa pamahalaan July 1992, base sa mga dokumento, naroon pa rin…
Ex-Justice Cuevas: (After a long silence) I’m not privy as yet to the contents of —
Senator-Judge Recto: Therefore, that is why I support the call of the Senate President na ang makakasagot lang ng mga katanungan nito ay ang Chief Justice lamang. Kasi nandoon pa rin sa 1992 SALN. Hinihintay ko tanungin ng prosecution yan. Hindi tinanong.
Cuevas then tried to have this piece of evidence thrown out.
He told Senator Recto that CJ Corona’s 1992 SALN was irrelevant to his impeachment trial because “1992 wala pa po sa Supreme Court si Chief Justice Corona.”
“Correct,” Senator-Judge Recto said.
And ex-Justice Cuevas replied, “so wala itong SALN, (it) will not come into force, your honor.”
But Senator-Judge Recto told him: “Meron kaming kopya dito – 1992, first time he (Corona) entered government.”
Senator-Judge Recto also grilled the prosecution
When Recto, a non-lawyer, turned to grill private prosecutor Jose Justiniano, Recto also elicited this interesting bit of information: The actual title of Mrs Corona’s Marikina property lodged with the Register of Deeds was never annotated with the Deed of Sale to show the property had changed hands.
Ultimately, this means that the only legal proof to show that Vicente now owns the property is his signed Deed of Absolute Sale that was notarized by a fake notary public. [See Part I: Corona listed Marikina lot in his SALN two years after sale to cousin ]
But if this is true, why would the Coronas bother simulating a sale that took place even before he joined the government?
Since there seems to be no plausible argument to explain this aspect, the defense asserts that its explanation is the real one – that a sale did take place but Vicente just never bothered to record it legally.
This explanation, however, leaves the following loose ends:
- Why did CJ Corona still list the Marikina property as an “Asset” in 1992 even though he had personally witnessed the signing of the Deed of Absolute Sale by his wife Cristina and his cousin Vicente in 1990?
- Why did CJ Corona drop it as an Asset the following year 1993?
- Did CJ Corona intentionally get lawyer-accountant Beatriz “Beth” Mantoya to notarize the Deed even though she was not a notary public?
- If CJ Corona did not know that Mantoya was not a notary public, why did he not know even if they once came from the same section (the Tax Division) of the same company (Sycip Gorres and Velayo) or SGV & Co?
The boldest and yet believable explanation for CJ Corona’s action was given by “rene-ipil” of Our Plaza Miranda – the growing community of commenters to this site.
He theorized that the only thing that was really sold in 1990 was the property of Cristina’s sister, Miriam Roco, with Cristina acting as the “Attorney’-in-Fact”. Here’s what “rene-ipil” wrote that intrigued me:
On July 26, 1990, Miriam (Cristina Corona’s sister) sold for P509,000 her 1,700 sqm property to Vicente with Cristina as Attorney-in-fact.
Both Cristina and Vicente had residence certificate issued on July 7, 1990 in QC.
As per deed of sale, Atty. Beatriz Mantoya notarized the document.
Per TCTs (Transfer Certificates of Title), TDs and ORs of payment, Cristina owns 1,700 sqm of land at Marikina Heights adjacent to Miriam’s.
The current market value of Cristina’s property is about P17M.
In 2012 (this year), Corona asked for the help of his cousin Vicente and simulated the sale of Cristina’s 7 parcels of land to Vicente also on July 26, 1990. It was agreed that “in due time” the property will be sold for about 17M and Vicente will get a fat commission thereafter.
The deed of sale was purportedly notarized by Mantoya in Makati.
The same residence certificates used in the sale of Miriam’s lot were also used by Cristina and Vicente.
Corona signed the deed of sale as a witness to limit persons with access to the document.
Corona knew that Mantoya was not a notary public for Makati.
No copy would be submitted to RTC Makati (as required of notary public) so that the date of actual execution of the simulated deed of sale cannot be verified.
The purported consideration for the sale was also P509,000 to show that the sale was done in 1990.
The back portion of the purported deed of sale shows that the CGT (Capital Gains Tax) and DST (Documentary Stamp Tax) had been paid to BIR but this could be easily faked with the help of Corona’s friends in the BIR.
Now, Vicente would like to sell all the 3,400 sqm property allegedly because the property is too big for his need.
Actually, Vicente is selling the whole property to preempt any negative effect of his testimony before the IC (Impeachment Court).
Vicente is too smart a witness. He looks credible because he was testifying on lies with the color of truth, i.e., sale of Miriam’s lot to him thereby using most of the truth in that transaction. But did you notice his reaction when he learned that the notarization was fake. It came to him that the sale on Miriam’s lot is also defective. Now, he wants to sell everything before the deluge.
I know a few who are better than him as a witness. An example is Jessica Alfaro of the Vizconde fame.
I noticed also that the testimony of Vicente on Miriam’s lot was introduced by Cuevas only in the redirect examination. Why not in the direct examination? Because it was not meant to be and it was introduced belatedly as damage control measure against the effect of the exposure of the fictitious notarization.
The simulated sale should be exposed as a scam. Questioned document experts may be called. But first, the purported payment of CGT and DST must be verified with the BIR.
Meantime, those with bleeding hearts, courtesy of Vicente may pause a little while before joining the bandwagon steered by Esguerra.
This was in reference to what Esguerra told me that he was willing to lend Vicente the money to transfer the property in his name. See my story – Lawyer willing to lend Mr Vicente cash to transfer Corona property to his name.
So why did CJ Corona initially list the Marikina property in his 1992 SALN and then dropped it altogether starting 1993?
Commenter “rene-ipil” is of the opinion that the Marikina property was meant to be a back-up property to later explain bank deposits.
Of course, he may be way off the mark.
Which is why it is becoming increasingly important for CJ Corona to testify.
Senator-Judge Recto’s call for him to testify is probably going to be echoed soon by his fellow senator-judges.
And the longer CJ Corona keeps silent on the Marikina property, the worse the speculation will get. It is for this reason that Filipinos eagerly await CJ Corona’s explanation on this and other matters.
My hats off to Our Plaza Miranda for generating a lot of ideas and leads :)
The exchange between Senator-Judge Recto and ex-Justice Cuevas can be watched here. Go to 4:16:15 [4 hours:16 minutes:15 seconds]