Daughter bought it ‘dirt cheap’
By Marlon Ramos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
SEAFRONT PROPERTY Chief Justice Renato Corona categorically denies owning “any property in the US” but admits these were used as “temporary mailing addresses” while he and his wife were on a visit to the United States. One of the alleged properties that blogger/journalist Raissa Robles claims belongs to the Chief Justice is a seafront house in Tampa, Florida. PHOTO FROM RAISSAROBLES.COM
A day after dismissing as “not true 101 percent” reports that his family owned two properties in the United States, impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona on Monday admitted that one of his daughters bought a “dirt cheap” house in America.
“[This is] another black [propaganda],” Corona said, referring to the latest revelation of journalist Raissa Robles in her blog entry.
In a text message to reporters, the Chief Justice said his daughter acquired the property “dirt cheap at the height of the mortgage foreclosures in the US.”
He said his daughter just put a 10-percent down payment to acquire the house “with 30 years to pay.”
“I don’t think she bought it in 2008. Anyway, she is earning very well as a PT (physical therapist) and is in fact working at two jobs. And her husband is also earning well,” the Chief Justice said.
Corona did not identify who between his two daughters was the registered owner of the house, but his defense lawyer, Tranquil Salvador III, said the Chief Justice was referring to his elder daughter, Maria Charina.
ABS-CBNnews.com reported that Robles said on ANC on Monday that she had information that Maria Charina bought the US property 22 days before she acquired a P6.2-million property [a 203-square-meter lot] in upscale McKinley Hill, Taguig City.
“The property is very intriguing because it was bought shortly before the McKinley property was bought. That was in 2008. So it was CJ Corona who brought in his family into the picture so I think it is very pertinent, relevant and material that people follow the money trail and that I think makes his dollar bank deposits very relevant to the case,” she told Mornings@ANC.
Robles said it was only Maria Charina who was the sole owner of the property because her husband had signed a waiver.
“The clearest thing though is that it is only the daughter who owns the property. It is not a conjugal thing. The husband signed a waiver to the property. You wonder why the arrangement was that way. And the property was bought 22 days before the McKinley property was bought. You ask yourself—why would someone take two liabilities so close to each other, almost at the same time? Is this a period of recession in the US?” she said.
On her updated blog entry, Robles posted on Monday documents about Maria Charina Corona’s acquisition of the property in the City of Roseville, Placer Country, California.
Robles said at least 10 people gave her leads about the Corona property and at least one provided evidence.
In her previous blog post titled “Does Renato C. Corona have a clone living in the US?” Robles said a certain “Renato C. Corona” was linked to two addresses in Tampa, Florida, and Mountain View, California.
Corona denied Robles’ claims, saying these were just their “temporary mailing addresses” while they were on a visit in the United States. He also categorically said that “we do not own any property in the US.”
Asked why the Chief Justice flip-flopped on his earlier statement, Salvador said Corona was just referring to himself and his wife Cristina.
“When he said ‘we,’ it pertained to the Chief Justice and his wife as a couple,” Salvador said at a news briefing.
“Their children have their own families now. They have their own sources of income and they can afford to buy properties if they want to,” he said.
Salvador said there was no reason for Corona to include the California property in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth “because that house was bought by his daughter using her and her husband’s hard-earned money.”
“We categorically deny that the Chief Justice owns the properties as stated in that blog report [of Robles],” said Rico Paolo Quicho, another defense spokesperson.
Salvador, however, could not confirm if Charina had indeed purchased the house just 22 days before she acquired a multimillion-peso condominium unit in McKinley Hill in Taguig City.
“I’m not telling you to believe us. You can check it out if (Charina) was the owner of that property and the terms of agreement for the purchase,” Salvador said.
Quicho took exception to insinuations that Charina could have just acted as a dummy for her father and that the property may have been ill-gotten.
“It is really alarming and saddening that anybody can just throw accusations and write stories even without factual basis,” Quicho said.
He said Robles’ articles were “not investigative reports, but almost like fictional stories.”
“The Chief Justice and his wife instilled decency, discipline and good values to their children. I’m sure they have the capacity to buy properties or anything they want using their own money,” he said.
Apparently fed up with the latest avalanche of accusations against the Chief Justice, Salvador said the defense was “urging” the prosecution to amend its impeachment complaint and include the supposed US properties in the articles of impeachment.
“If they believe that those US properties were owned by the Chief Justice, then it would be better if they include that in the articles of impeachment. I’m not challenging them, but I urge them to amend the impeachment complaint if they really believe in the relevance of this,” he said.
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Corona: No Florida, California houses
By Marlon Ramos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona on Sunday denied reports that he owned at least two properties in the United States, saying the addresses mentioned by a journalist in her blog were apartments “rented” by his daughters.
“[The reports are] not true 101 percent. We have no property in the US,” Corona said in text messages to reporters covering the justice beat.
Tranquil Salvador III, one of Corona’s lawyers in the impeachment trial, questioned the motive of the journalist, Raissa Robles, in spreading the story which, he said, came as the Senate impeachment court took a six-week recess.
“The release of this story is highly suspicious because there will be no hearings and opportunities for us to confront them,” Salvador told the Philippine Daily Inquirer over the phone.
“The danger of releasing stories of similar nature is that these might raise suspicions and conclusions may be drawn [against the Chief Justice],” he said.
Corona said the properties that Robles claimed were linked to the name “Renato C. Corona” in US public records were his and his family’s “temporary mailing addresses” whenever they visited the United States.
Robles, who was previously suspected as the unnamed “small lady” who provided the documents of Corona’s dollar deposits to the prosecution panel, said the properties were in Tampa, Florida, and in an upscale residential area in Mountain View, California.
“The addresses cited by (Robles) were the apartments rented by my two daughters (who are) both licensed PTs (physical therapists) in the US at various times over the past 14 years,” Corona said.
“These were, therefore, temporary mailing addresses at those various times,” he added.
The Chief Justice said the house in Florida “is owned by a family friend where we stay in the few times we’ve been to Tampa.”
Salvador said whoever fed the information to Robles may have had information about the Coronas’ mailing addresses in the United States since one of his daughters is now based in that country.
He also surmised that Robles’ article could be a “reaction to the successful efforts” of the defense panel to debunk the allegation of the prosecution that Corona owned 45 properties.
“We were successful in our efforts to destroy their ‘45 properties theory’ and trim it down to just five properties,” Salvador said.
“I think they would want to capture the interest of the public in the supposed US properties in order to water down the impact of us destroying their 45 properties theory,” he added.
Asked if the prosecution could be behind Robles, Salvador said: “I don’t want to say that. It’s hard to make any attributions at this time.”
“But sadly, stories like this benefit the prosecution. Honestly, I will not be surprised if there will be other stories of this kind,” he said.
Salvador also belittled the legal effects of any discovery of other properties which the prosecution may later claim to be owned by Corona.
Since the prosecution panel had already finished presenting its case, any evidence that the prosecution may find later “has no evidentiary value anymore,” he said.
“All of these are just for the public consumption. What’s the purpose of this? Is this to condition the mind of the public? Is it to bring the trial to a different dimension … in the bar of public opinion?” Salvador said.
He said attempts by the House prosecutors to link Corona to other properties were “an indication of their preparation for this case.”
“It seems that up to this point, they are still continuing to fish for evidence which they know cannot be presented as their evidence. But they are presenting them to the public just to cast doubt on the integrity of the Chief Justice,” he said.
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Corona’s properties in US ‘immaterial’
SEVERAL senator-judges said that reports of the alleged properties of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona in the United States should not influence the Senate impeachment court’s verdict on the head magistrate’s impeachment trial.
This came even as Mr. Corona publicly denied owning properties in the US and calling a blog post made by journalist Raissa Robles “101%” untrue.
Senator-judge Ralph G. Recto in a text message yesterday called the report “irrelevant, immaterial and impertinent” to the ongoing trial.
His view was echoed by Senator-judge Aquilino Martin “Koko” D.L. Pimentel III who said in a separate text message that the impeachment court will “not be interested in ‘reports’ as it is the job of the prosecution to do the investigative work.”
On Saturday, Ms. Robles wrote in her blog (www.raissarobles.com) that based on US public records, a certain “Renato C. Corona” was linked to at least two properties: one in Tampa, Florida and the other in Mountain View, California.
Mr. Corona refuted the report.
“The addresses cited by [Ms.] Robles were the apartments rented by my daughters at various times over the past 14 years and were therefore temporary mailing addresses,” he said in a statement sent to the media yesterday.
Mr. Corona said that the property in Bayshore, Tampa which they used “in the few times we’ve been to Tampa, Florida” is “owned by a friend.”
Mr. Pimentel stressed that Mr. Corona’s properties abroad, if any, do not concern the impeachment court.
“The only reservation made by the prosecution is on the foreign currency deposit accounts and not on foreign properties. That’s the only opening left for the prosecution,” he said.
The Senate only accepted the prosecution’s reservation on Mr. Corona’s supposed dollar accounts in Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank), pending the final high court ruling against its presentation before the impeachment court.
However, Senator-judge Gringo B. Honasan II said that prosecutors may expand their reservations and include the supposed properties in the US in their offer of evidence.
“They [prosecution team] can expand it and offer these developments as evidence. Once they do, then the impeachment court will have to weigh this new evidence,” he said in a telephone interview yesterday. Mr. Honasan explained that “for non-lawyers” like him, “the primary objective is to search for the truth.”
Meanwhile, defense spokesperson Tranquil G.S. Salvador III stressed in a text message that these alleged properties are “irrelevant and impertinent” to the case, adding that the report may have come out in a bid to “condition” the public’s mind.
“To my mind, these alleged properties came out just now to condition the mind of the public during the long break and to give them something to chew on and discuss in the interim,” he said.
The impeachment trial went into a six-week-long recess after Congress suspended sessions for the summer break. Trial will resume on May 7. — Antonio Siegfrid O. Alegado