MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - An official of the Commission on Audit (COA) has denied talking to a defense counsel of Chief Justice Renato Corona, who had quoted her as having questioned a COA ruling on the sale of a Manila property owned by the family of Mrs. Cristina Corona.
In a letter to ABS-CBN News, COA National Capital Region cluster director Divinia Alagon said she does not know defense lawyer Ramon Esguerra personally “nor any of the other lawyers of the Defense nor have I talked to any of them, or any member of the Media.”
She asked that ABS-CBN News publish her denial.
In a statement issued on Monday, the defense questioned the timing and circumstances of the release of a notice of disallowance (ND) from the COA in connection with the decision of the Manila government to buy for P34.7 million a property belonging to the Basa-Guidote Enterprises Inc., a company owned by the family of Mrs. Corona.
The defense team's press release quoted Esguerra as saying: “What we have here is another [Land Registration Authority] when agencies and processes were compromised to support a certain position. What makes this worst is that COA is a constitutional commission.”
The prosecution earlier used an LRA list to allege that Corona has 45 properties. Lead prosecutor Niel Tupas Jr. said, however, that it was not their intent to imply that Corona had that so many properties to his name.
In the statement, Esguerra quoted Alagon as having said: “COA has no power to issue the ND. COA has no power to even rescind the Deed of Sale.”
In the notice of disallowance obtained by ABS-CBNnews.com dated March 19, 2012, the COA questioned the P34.7 million purchase of the property for the construction of a train system in Sampaloc.
This came after almost 11 years. The deed of sale for the BGEI property was signed in March 2001.
Asked for comment on Alagon’s statement, Esguerra said in a text message: “No one from the defense team claimed to have talked to the good auditor. Media release never said so but quoted what her colleagues shared what she was reported to have said on the issue.”
The issue at hand is the notice of disallowance, he said.
“I believe those concerned will appeal. They have six months to do so. The appeal can be filed way past the conclusion of trial. There is no malversation to speak of until there is a final resolution of the issue by the Supreme Court. Remember that there is a deed of sale in favor of the City of Manila and it is in possession of the lot for more than ten years,” he said.