GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/11 March) — Cristina Basa Roco-Corona, wife of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona will soon testify at the Impeachment Court (IC) trial as a defense witness to clarify the Corona bank records and the statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs) of the Chief Justice. She is expected to tell the court that Corona does not own the money in his bank account not reflected in his SALNs; it belongs to the Basa-Guidote Enterprises Inc. (BGEI).
This Corona’s defense team has already told the court; this Corona has been telling in his recent media blitz. This Cristina Corona will corroborate in her testimony next week – “connect the dots”, is how Sen. Francis Pangilinan puts it (Philippine Daily Inquirer, March 9). Will BGEI shield Corona or expose him the more to prosecution fire?
BGEI at a Glance
As gleaned from stories — in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, particularly that personally narrated by Ana Basa (March 6 and 7); the feud within the corporation (February 18); and in Sun-Star, on the sale of BGEI property to the Manila government (March 5) – BGEI is a small clan or family corporation listing among its assets a 1,079.7 sq.m. lot with a commercial building in Sampaloc, Manila. What other assets it has is unknown,
According to Ana, when her grandfather (a Basa) died, her grandmother, Rosario Guidote-Basa, had the BGEI set up instead of later dividing the Basa estate among her children who became the original incorporators — among them Jose Maria Basa III, her father, and Asuncion Basa-Roco, Cristina Roco-Corona’s mother. BGEI was registered with the Securities Exchange Commission on May 30, 1961.
Imbued with trust and family closeness, the Basa brothers and sisters and their mother entrusted BGEI to Asuncion as corporate secretary and her husband, lawyer Vicente Roco, as president even if Asuncion was a minority stockholder. By the 1980’s Vicente Roco entrusted BGEI to Cristina, by then married to Renato C. Corona, as administrator. By 1989, BGEI was in trouble. SEC revoked its registration on May 26, 2003.
According to Ana’s story, Roco – then later Cristina – did not show the BGEI book and records to the stockholders and ignored the board. Two original stockholders still living and the heirs of those dead were shocked by revelations about BGEI in the impeachment trial of Corona. They believed Corona, through Cristina, manipulated the affairs of BGEI for their interests including the sale of the Sampaloc lot to the Manila government.
In 2001 the Manila government bought the BGEI lot at P34,000 per sq. m. [P34,703,800 for the 1,020.7 sq. m. lot? –ppd] with then Mayor Lito Atienza and Cristina Corona as principal signatories of the deeds of sale. According to reports, Corona – at that time presidential legal officer of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo – negotiated the sale as there was no consent of the stockholders. The check was in the name of Cristina Corona.
Just recently, Mayor Alfredo Lim ordered the sale investigated “upon learning the title of the BGEI lot had not been transferred to the city despite the payment of it worth more than P34 million made over a decade ago” (Sun-Star, March 5, 2012).
BGEI in Corona Trials
How did BGEI get featured in the Corona impeachment?
First, as reflected in his SALNs, Corona had a liability of P11 million in 2004 as cash advance from BGEI obviously to explain the acquisition of assets. In his succeeding SALNs, this liability became P10M in 2005; P8M in 2006; P6.5M in 2007; P5M in 2008; P3M in 2009; zero in 2010. This infers Corona had sufficient income from 2004 to 2009 to pay back the P11M cash advance plus interest, if any.
Second, Corona admitted closing on December 12, 2011 – the day the impeachment case was file – three time deposits in the Katipunan Branch of PSBank (INQUIRER.net, March 7):
(1) One opened in 2009 with an amount of P8.5M had increased to P12,589,316.56 as of end of 2010 – earning P4,080,816.56 (48%) in one year.
(2) Another opened on September 1, 2010 with an amount of P7,090,099.45 had increased to P7,148,238.83 as of end 2010 – earning P58,139.38 (0.82%) in four months.
(3) A third was opened on June 29, 2011 with initial deposit of P17 million.
Corona explained: “The bulk of the funds are owned by my wife’s family corporation which is subject to three pending cases before the Manila Regional Trial Court and ultimately, my wife, being the president of the corporation is accountable for those funds.” The accounts were closed to prevent their inclusion in the impeachment proceedings — although in another report he had lost confidence in PSBank for leaking information about his accounts – he said.
Obviously, Corona is using BGEI to explain the inconsistencies and discrepancies of his disclosures in his SALNs – the worth of his real properties against his known sources of income – and his bank deposits not included in his SALNs.
More Questions …
But it appears that his statements pertaining to BGEI ask more questions than provide answers to the inconsistencies and discrepancies in his SALNs – questions that could ruin him if he and his wife fail to answer them satisfactorily at the impeachment court. He could be digging too deep a hole for him to climb out.
To rephrase Corona’s statement: The “big bulk” of the P32.59 million funds deposited in 2009, 2010 and 2011 (P36.729 million plus interests by December 12, 2011) was owned by BGEI. Then it should be asked:
- What percent is the “big bulk”? The “small bulk” must be Corona’s money. Why lump the “big bulk” and the “small bulk”?
- If Cristina Corona is the corporation “president”, why did she not open a BGEI account for the BGEI money? Or, why did she not deposit the BGEI money in trust or in escrow?
- Was the BGEI money – if the “big bulk” was really BGEI money – lumped with Corona’s money, the “small bulk”, so that Corona could use it?
Related and pertinent questions should be asked:
- What is the status of BGEI now? SEC revoked its registration in 2003. According to Ana Basa and Sister Flory, since the 1980s the stockholders had not met and their request to see the books had been ignored. How does BGEI operate?
- In 2007, Cristina Corona was appointed chairperson, president, chief executive officer and chief operating officer of John Hay Management Corporation (abs-cbnNEWS.com, December 16, 2011). How could she run BGEI?
- As shown in Corona’s bank accounts, BGEI is earning multi-millions even after the sale of the BGEI Sampaloc property. What are the other BGEI assets that have earned multi-millions?
These questions are vital to the integrity and validity of Corona’s SALNs, the center of fire in Impeachment Article 2. He and his wife have options –answer them either under oath at the impeachment court or in the media in the court of public opinion.
The first option is imperative to erase from the records the evidence of the prosecution. But presenting testimonial and documentary evidence concerning BGEI will be grounds for the prosecution – as well as the court – to invite the still living BGEI stockholders and the heirs of the dead as rebuttal witnesses.
Besides shedding the truth about BGEI in relation to the above questions, there is need to affirm or deny some statements Corona has made. For instance, earlier above, he referred to Cristina as “… my wife, being the president of the corporation …”
While he avows distancing from the BGEI dispute, he talks authoritatively about it in his media blitz. [See: “10 Truths according to CJ Corona”, Rappler.com, March 10, 2012. He is only repeating similar statements issued earlier.]
- He was just dragged into the issue because he is an in-law and a lawyer.
- The Basas are not BGEI stockholders – specifically naming Jose Maria Basa III and Sister Flory Basa. They only insist they are. They already got their share so they should stop meddling. [This implies that the investments of the Basas have been returned; so, the alleged claim of Cristina that she owns BGEI.]
- Even if the BGEI license (registration) has expired, the corporate properties of BGEI are still there. [This suggests BGEI owns properties other than the Sampaloc lot sold in 2001 – the sources of BGEI’s multi-million peso earnings.]
- The P34.7 million in time deposits withdrawn on December 12, 2011 was from the sale of BGEI land in 2001. [Why were these deposited only in 2009, 2010 and 2011?]
The statements raise more questions that settle the BGEI issues.
Corona has been taking the second option in his media blitz. In fact, he is discussing the merits of his case. He acknowledges that the trial going on in the media is more intense than that in the IC.
However, he avows to the contrary, BGEI has not just been accidentally dragged into his impeachment case. Evidently, it is integral to his financial affairs; he is behind his wife in the operation of BGEI – real or simulated.
His statements in the media must be being weighed by the public against contrary facts particularly the recent exposé of Ana Basa in the Philippine Daily Inquirer that Sister Flory Basa has sustained aside from her own pronouncements. Should Mrs. Corona take the witness stand to testify on BGEI, the prosecution will present Ana Basa and Sister Flory, among others, as rebuttal witnesses with more rebuttal evidence.
The BGEI issues will impact – for or against – his moral integrity to continue in office. As it now stands, it appears Corona sees that BGEI is hurting him; it can undo him. (“Comment” is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz’ column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. The Titus Brandsma Media Awards honored Mr. Diaz with a “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his “commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate.” You can reach him at [email protected].)