By Raïssa Robles
ONE OF THE THINGS Chief Justice Renato Corona has to prove to the impeachment court is that he correctly filled up his SALNs (Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth) and whatever errors or omissions they contain are minor and not enough to get him kicked out of office.
One section of his SALN has highly intrigued me — the one on LIABILITIES where he is supposed to declare any loans, mortgages – in other words, utang.
In seven of his SALNs, he declared under LIABILITIES a “cash advance”, initially worth P11 million which through the years kept going down. The source of the cash advance? His “wife’s family corporation” – which he identified as Basa-Guidote Enterprises, Inc. in his SALNs for 2003, 2004 and 2005.
Thanks to this cash advance, CJ Corona became instantly richer by P11 million – money which (according to his lawyers) he used to buy property. By the way, they have yet to show the paper trail from the cash advance to any of the properties.
This is my question about the“cash advance”: How could Corona have received millions from a corporation where his wife did not own any shares and where most of the shareholders – who were all her relatives – were openly quarreling with her?
In fact they had sued each other in court.The Basas had sued Corona’s wife Cristina for estafa; while Cristina sued them back for libel. Cristina won her libel suit and to satisfy the award of damages to her, the court allowed the Basa-Guidote shares held by her losing relatives to be auctioned off to the highest bidder.
As it turned out, the highest and only bidder was none other than Cristina Corona’s daughter Carla. QC Sheriff Joseph Bisnar, who had presided over the September 30, 2003 auction, testified last Tuesday (May 8, 2012) that Corona’s daughter bought 4,839 shares of Basa-Guidote for P28,000 – equivalent to 90.87% of the company. Under corporation law, that means Carla Castillo practically owns Basa-Guidote.
But here’s the thing — the advance of millions to Corona was allegedly made to him by Basa-Guidote just days before Carla Castillo won the September 30, 2003 auction and obtained the corporation’s controlling shares, defense lawyer Judd Roy told the impeachment court last Tuesday.
Atty Roy said:
The cash advance occurred between September 5 and September 30, 2003. Because at the time the cash advance was drawn, the shares had not been sold to Carla Corona.
He then added that:
After September 30 (auction), the facts of the case change because the shares are now owned by a different person. The corporation is now controlled by a different person, Carla Castillo.
Those are Atty Roy’s own words, not mine.
Atty Roy has yet to submit to court any proof that the cash advance was indeed taken out BEFORE September 30, 2003.
But let’s just assume that was what happened.
In this piece, I will not go yet into the strange, strange case of Basa-Guidote. I will only talk about Basa-Guidote’s “cash advance” to CJ Corona and whether he disclosed these correctly in his SALNs.
Defense lawyer Roy implied last week that CJ Corona’s disclosures on his “cash advance” were accurate and complete.
Let’s now examine CJ Corona’s SALNs on the basis of the evidence presented last week by Sheriff Bisnar – that after September 30, 2003 Basa-Guidote was in fact owned by Carla Castillo because she won 90.87% of the company shares in a court auction.
It is in Chief Justice Corona’s SALN for 2003 – which he filed in April 2004 – where it is first recorded that he took out a cash advance from Basa-Guidote, his “wife’s family corporation.”
See below –
SALN 2003 of Chief Justice Corona**
Let’s now examine Chief Justice Corona’s subsequent SALNs
Let’s see how CJ Corona recorded in his subsequent SALNS his P11 million cash advance and the dramatic change in Basa-Guidote’s ownership.
For his SALN of the following year 2004 which he filed on April 2005, CJ Corona showed that his cash advance remained at P11 million and was drawn from his “wife’s family corporation” :
SALN 2004 of Chief Justice Corona**
This was even though he presumably knew – as the father of Carla and as the spouse of Cristina – that Basa-Guidote was no longer his “wife’s family corporation”. It had become his daughter’s corporation over a year before he had filed his 2004 SALN.
I say the word “presumably” with confidence because after all, he must know a lot about Basa-Guidote because its millions ended up deposited in one of his personal accounts at Philippine Savings Bank (PSB) Katipunan branch. It was NOT an AND/OR account. It was a single account where he alone could withdraw from.
Anyway, going back to his SALNs, for CJ Corona’s SALN of 2005 which he filed in April 2006, he listed under “liabilities” a “cash advance” of P10 million due for payment to Basa-Guidote. Again, he described it as his “wife’s family corporation.”
SALN 2005 of Chief Justice Corona**
This was even though Basa-Guidote had ceased being his wife’s family corporation on September 30, 2003, when it became his daughter Carla’s corporation – at least according to Atty Roy and Sheriff Bisnar.
Why didn’t CJ Corona disclose this fact? Perhaps he can explain this if and when he testifies.
But let’s continue.
For CJ Corona’s SALN as of December 31, 2006 which he filed in April 2007, he listed P8 million under “liabilities” and described it as a “cash advance from wife’s family corp.”
SALN 2006 of Chief Justice Corona**
This contradicts defense lawyer Roy’s statements and Sheriff Bisnar’s testimony at the impeachment trial. Last Tuesday May 8, Atty Roy told Presiding Senator-Judge Juan Ponce Enrile that the point of Bisnar’s testimony was “to establish that the bulk of the shares of the Basa-Guidote Corporation are now owned by Carla Corona Castillo, the daughter of the Chief Justice.”
Please keep in mind what Atty Roy said as you read the rest of this piece. Roy – a law dean no less – said “that the bulk of the shares of the Basa-Guidote Corporation are now owned by Carla Corona Castillo, the daughter of the Chief Justice.”
It is for this reason that I am asking why – three years after his daughter Carla had bought the corporation in a court auction – CJ Corona continued to describe Basa-Guidote as his “wife’s family corporation” in his SALN.
For CJ Corona’s SALN as of December 31, 2007 which he filed in April 2008, he listed P6.5 million under “liabilities” and described the amount again as a “cash advance from wife’s family corporation.”
SALN 2007 of Chief Justice Corona**
Four years after his daughter Carla bought the corporation in a court auction, why did CJ Corona still describe Basa-Guidote as his “wife’s family corporation”?
In CJ Corona’s SALN as of December 31, 2008 which he filed in April 2009, he listed under “liabilities” a P5 million “cash advance from wife’s family corporation”. He did this even though five years had passed since his daughter Carla had bought the controlling shares of the company in cash at a court auction.
SALN 2008 of Chief Justice Corona**
For CJ Corona’s SALN as of December 31, 2009 which he filed in April 2010 – on the very eve he became Supreme Court Chief Justice of the Philippines – Corona declared P3 million under “liabilities”. Again, he described the sum as a “cash advance from wife’s family corporation” – six years after his daughter Carla took ownership and control of Basa-Guidote.
SALN 2009 of Chief Justice Corona**
Who really owns Basa-Guidote today?
Last January 22, 2012 when I first wrote about CJ Corona’s P11 million cash advance from Basa-Guidote, I interviewed one of Corona’s defense lawyers – Ramon Esguerra.
I asked Atty Esguerra about Basa-Guidote and this is what he told me:
That’s a family corporation of Mrs Corona. My understanding is that this is actually 98% owned by Mrs Corona already. My recollection is that there was some sort of intra-corporate controversy among the stockholders.
Atty Esguerra did not tell me then that it was owned by Carla Castillo. He said it was “actually 98% owned” by Cristina Corona.
When I heard this explanation from Atty Esguerra at that time, I asked him this follow-up question:
You said it’s 98% owned by Mrs Corona and the corporation is unregistered, does that mean he made utang to his own wife?
Esguerra replied to me then:
Hindi naman to his own wife. To her corporation.
So we have a corporation that, depending on which defense lawyer you’re talking to, is either owned by the mother or the daughter. By the way, the defense lawyers have so far not presented any corporate ownership papers to the impeachment court.
Perhaps the defense has yet another witness to present who will testify how Carla’s corporation ended up being owned by her mother today?
In any case, why did CJ Corona’s SALNs for seven consecutive years – 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 – state that he owed money to his wife’s family corporation?
Why did SEVEN SALNs he filed consecutively from 2004 to 2010 never disclose that he was in fact returning the “cash advance” to his daughter’s corporation – at least if you go by Sheriff Bisnar’s testimony and defense lawyer Roy?
Please note that even if it was his wife who had acquired Basa-Guidote from Carla, the SALNs of CJ Corona should have stated at some point that his cash advance was to due for payment to his “wife’s corporation”, and not to his “wife’s family corporation.”
Going by the narration of facts presented by the defense and its witness last Tuesday, the word “family” was legally erased on September 30,2003 at a court auction presided over by Sheriff Bisnar and participated in by Corona’s wife Cristina and daughter Carla. And this was only days after CJ Corona had obtained his P11 million cash advance.
Here is my first story last January on Chief Justice Corona’s P11 million cash advance from Basa-Guidote, where I interviewed defense lawyer Ramon Esguerra and where I accidentally unlocked a messy family feud.