The prosecution team on Monday revealed that real estate developer Megaworld gave Chief Justice Renato Corona a 40-percent (equivalent to P10 million) discount when he purchased a penthouse unit in Taguig City in 2009.
During the resumption of the impeachment proceedings, private prosecutor Joseph Joemer Perez alleged that Megaworld gave Corona the million-peso discount for a penthouse unit at the Bellagio condominium at the Fort in Taguig City.
One of the articles of impeachment against Corona was for his alleged failure to disclose to the public his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).
Corona declared in his SALN that the assessed value of his Bellagio unit was P3.49 million while the current fair market value was P6.8 million.
However, during the proceedings, Megaworld finance director Giovanni Ng said one of the penthouses at Bellagio was sold to Corona and his wife at P14,510,225.
“To be candid, we were informed by the witness that Chief Justice Renato Corona received a 40-percent discount from Megaworld Corp. equivalent to P10 million and we believe this is highly material because it goes into the valuation of the property in the SALN ,” Perez said.
When Perez attempted to ask Ng whether the price was discounted or not, the lead defense counsel — former Associate Justice Serafin Cuevas — objected, saying that there was no basis to ask such question.
Ng then explained that the pricing of the units was under their marketing department and that he was only relaying information he learned.
Ng’s statement prompted Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile to dismiss his testimony on the subject as “hearsay.”
“This witness was presented by you to tetsify on documents, on actual transactions but you are going far beyond [his expertise]. I admonish you to lay the basis for your questions so we will not have these objections,” Enrile told Perez.
As prosecutor Perez continued questioning Ng, the Senate eventually just decided to subpoena Megaworld’s vice president for marketing and sales Noli Hernandez, who is supposedly more equipped to answer matters about the pricing of the units at Bellagio.
Senator Koko Pimentel, however, said there was nothing in the Articles of Impeachment about receiving benefits, which is where the discount can fall under.
Perez explained that receiving discounts will fall under Article II, which accuses Corona of his failure to disclose his SALN.
“[It will fall under] failure to disclose and failure to truthfully diclose. A SALN is not just a piece of paper, it must be under oath,” Perez said.
The prosecutor likewise said that this allegation will fall under Article III, which accuses Corona of betraying public trust by “failing to meet and observe the stringent standards under Article VIII, Section 7 (3) of the Constitution that provides that a member of the judiciary must be a person of proven competence, integrity, probity, and independence.”
“We believe that a person with integrity and probity, especially a high public official would not accept a P10-million discount from a developer which might will be having pending litigation,” Perez said.
Earlier during the trial, Ng also testified that Corona and his wife were the real buyers of the P6.1-million McKinley Hill property in Taguig City acquired by their daughter Charina in 2008.
The lawmakers impeached Corona in December last year on the following grounds:
- partiality and subservience in cases involving the Arroyo administration;
- failure to disclose to the public his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN);
- issuance of flip-flopping decisions in final and executory cases;
- issuance of the “status quo ante” order against the House of Representatives in the case concerning the impeachment of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez;
- decision in favor of gerrymandering in the cases involving 16 newly-created cities, and the promotion of Dinagat Island into a province;
- improper creation of the SC ethics committee
- granting temporary restraining order in favor of former President Arroyo; and
- failure and refusal to account for the Judicial Development Fund (JDF) and special allowance.
— RSJ/VVP, GMA News