19 properties allegedly undeclared
By Cynthia D. Balana, Juliet Labog-Javellana
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Land titles show a spate of acquisitions of prime real estate by Chief Justice Renato Corona and his family as late as 2010.
Documents of the Land Registration Authority (LRA) obtained by the Inquirer from unimpeachable sources showed that 19 properties were registered under the name of Corona, his wife Cristina, their daughters Charina and Carla, and the latter’s husband Constantino Castillo.
Spread across four cities in Metro Manila—Makati, Taguig, Marikina and Quezon City—the 19 properties, including condominium units in the most prestigious addresses, have an estimated total area of 5,880 square meters and current market value of P202.2 million.
The combined area of nearly 6,000 sq m is roughly equivalent to 326 housing units under the government’s socialized housing program.
The 19 properties are among the 45 properties that the House prosecution panel disclosed on Thursday as among the questionable assets that the impeached Chief Justice did not declare in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).
The 11-member House prosecution panel has asked the Senate impeachment court to subpoena documents on the 45 properties during the impeachment trial that opens on Monday.
Corona is charged with culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, and graft and corruption contained in eight articles of impeachment.
The properties in Taguig, Makati and Quezon City were acquired between 2004 and 2010.
Prior to his appointment to the high court, Corona served as Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s chief of staff in 2000 when she was Vice President, and as her spokesperson in 2001 when she became President. He was appointed to the high court in 2002 and as Chief Justice on May 12, 2010, which was questioned as a “midnight appointment.”
If you can find them…
The embattled Corona had taunted his accusers on Thursday, saying: “If you can find [the properties], you can have them.”
But copies of Copies of Transfer Certificates of Title and Condominium Certificates of Title issued by the LRA and obtained by the Inquirer showed condominium units and houses and lots registered in the names of the Corona family members.
In Taguig, host to a number of upscale condominium developments, the family has titles to three luxurious properties, including a 203-sq-m lot at Block 16, Fairgreen corner Pinecrest Streets, in McKinley Hill valued at P16 million. The deed of sale for this property, dated Oct. 21, 2008, is in the name of Charina Corona, with her father as attorney-in-fact.
In its website, Megaworld described McKinley Hill as its “vision of a world-class enclave” in a 50-hectare township featuring a residential block of houses, garden villas and condominiums, a retail complex, a cyberpark and international schools and embassies.
Another Taguig property is a 113.02-sq-m condominium unit at 1902 Spanish Bay Tower, Bonifacio Ridge, registered in the name of the Chief Justice’s wife Cristina. Valued at P10 million, the 2-bedroom unit on the 19th floor comes with a parking slot acquired on Nov. 29, 2005.
Bonifacio Ridge, a project of the Ayala-led Fort Bonifacio Development Corp., is located near the Manila Golf Course and consists of two 18-story towers.
The third Taguig property is the 303.5-sq-m penthouse condominium unit, with three parking slots of 12.5 sq m each, at Bellagio I, which the prosecutors earlier disclosed in a press conference. The deed of absolute sale was signed by Cristina and Renato Corona on Dec. 16, 2009.
The prosecutors earlier said Corona acquired the property for P14 million. Its current market value is pegged at P30 million. A regular Bellagio unit today reportedly costs P100,000 per square meter.
A new property in Makati is identified as a 48-sq-m, one-bedroom condo (Unit 31B) with one parking slot at the Ayala-owned The Columns on Ayala corner Buendia Avenues. Registered in the names of the Corona couple, it has a market value pegged at P6 million.
It was acquired on Oct. 1, 2004, two years after Corona’s appointment as associate justice in 2002.
The Columns is a residential and commercial complex composed of three 42-story towers. Located near the Makati central business district, it is said to have a huge recreational club “with swimming pool, gym and sauna, function rooms, garden and barbecue area, daycare with indoor and outdoor play area, game room, communal wine cellar.”
La Vista (5 properties)
In Quezon City, the Corona family has titles to five properties, the biggest of which is a 1,200-sq-m house and lot in the posh La Vista Subdivision.
Valued at P72 million, and the priciest of the 19 properties covered by LRA documents, the property is under the name of Carla Corona Castillo and acquired on Nov. 9, 2010, or a few months after Arroyo appointed her father Chief Justice.
La Vista is also home to Arroyo, now a Pampanga representative and under hospital arrest on charges of electoral sabotage.
There is also a 819-sq-m property in Diliman, Quezon City, with a market value of P12.5 million, which is under the name of Carla’s husband Constantino Castillo. It was acquired on March 17, 2009.
Also under Castillo’s name is a 350-sq-m property in Cubao, Quezon City, worth P7 million and acquired on Feb. 23, 2004.
Two other pieces of real estate in Diliman, Quezon City, are registered under the names of Renato and Cristina Corona—a 630-sq-m property valued at P10 million and acquired on Oct. 23, 1995, and a 514-sq-m property valued at P7 million and acquired April 5, 1971.
The Corona couple are also registered owners of seven properties in Marikina Heights, all acquired in one day—Sept. 24, 1984.
The sizes of the Marikina Heights properties range from 203 sq m to 328 sq m, and have a total area of 1,903 sq m. Their combined current market value is P25.7 million.
On Thursday, the House prosecution panel through Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., lead House counsel, and Mario Bautista, lead private prosecutor, asked the Senate impeachment court to subpoena the Corona couple, their two children and son-in-law, as well as the documents pertaining to the 45 properties.
Attached to the prosecution’s request was a letter dated Jan. 10 from LRA Administrator Eulalio Diaz III and sent to Tupas. It contained the numbers of the documents “relative to the real estate properties registered in the name of Renato Corona et al.”
Of the 45, three were listed in the name of “National Housing Authority, Burgundy Realty Corp. and Ismael Mathay Jr. et al.”
A source privy to the prosecution panel’s evidence said this could be because the properties were mortgaged.
But Marikina Rep. Romero Quimbo said the three titles could be traced back to the Coronas. He said this was why the titles still appeared on the LRA list.
All the supposed properties of the Corona family will be used in prosecuting Article 2 of the impeachment complaint, which concerns Corona’s SALN.
The prosecution panel had earlier said that Corona’s last SALN was in 2002, and that this could mean possible unexplained wealth.
Article 2 will be handled by Tupas, a former junior partner of Belo Gozon Elma Asuncion & Lucila offices; Pangasinan Rep. Marilyn Primicias-Aggabas, a former trial lawyer; and Dasmariñas City Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr., a practicing certified public accountant, lawyer and bar reviewer in civil law in 1983-1992, before he ran for Congress in 2007.
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, a member of the prosecution panel who has previously released his SALN, challenged Corona and other Supreme Court justices to do so as well.
Colmenares said the high court’s statement that the justices were not releasing their SALN because they could be kidnapped was “absurd.”
“Kidnappers don’t go around looking at the SALN of their victims before they kidnap them. This kind of reasoning means all public officials can refuse to submit their SALN on the flimsy ground that, like justices of the Supreme Court, they can also be kidnapped,” he said.
Colmenares said the nonrelease of SALNs was a violation of Section 17, Art. XI of the Constitution and of Republic Act No. 6713, which state that public officers or employees shall, upon assumption of office and as often thereafter, submit a declaration under oath of their SALN.
He said the high court’s insistence that justices, unlike all other public officials, were exempted from the constitutional and statutory provision was “absurdly self-serving.”
Colmenares’ latest SALN showed a net worth of P700,000.
“I live in a 59-sq-m, one-bedroom home in a low-cost housing unit in Sauyo (Novaliches, Quezon City) and drive a second-hand 2003 Revo. We have a dilapidated 13-year-old, secondhand 1998 Nissan Sentra,” the lawmaker said.
“In case spin doctors plan to concoct stories against prosecutors like me, they can visit my house in Sauyo any time,” he said.