MANILA, Philippines - A day after Chief Justice Renato Corona called their father a "spoiled brat," the children of Jose Ma. Basa III cried “foul” and assailed Corona for destroying the good name of their deceased parent.
Reading a joint statement, cousins of Corona’s wife, Cristina, said in a press conference at the Senate: “It is the family's firm opinion that Corona’s actions with respect to Basa-Guidote Enterprises Inc. [BGEI] have been illegal, and have simply in effect stolen the company from the other legitimate owners of the corporation.”
Carmen Basa, said their legal actions vis-a-vis Corona's statements were still being discussed with their lawyers.
Five of Jose’s children flew in all the way from the United States to attend Corona’s testimony on Tuesday, knowing that the family feud would likely be taken up by the chief justice.
The battle over BGEI was put on the spotlight in the impeachment trial after Corona reported in his Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN) an P11 million cash advance for the purchase of several real properties. The defense later said the P11 million came from BGEI funds, which are being held in trust by Mrs. Corona.
Corona, in his testimony on Tuesday, said he had no choice but to air his side on the family feud over BGEI. He said that Cristina’s relatives, led by her uncle Jose, excluded Mrs. Corona's mother, Asuncion Basa-Roco, from getting her share of a P2.5-billion lot in Libis, Quezon City.
Despite this, he said it was his wife and his daughter Carla, who were tagged as the greedy relatives. Corona also described Jose as a “spoiled brat" and “jobless.”
Carmen said their father was “an honorable man who strongly believed in the justice system. He was very proud of his heritage, she added, and "never gave up his citizenship even if he lived in the US for the remaining years of his life.”
Jose died on August 29, 2002 while several criminal and civil cases filed against him by Mrs. Corona were still pending.
'Jose Basa not jobless'
“Our father suffered so much from the stress and anxiety brought about by these problems during the last 20 years of his life. And sadly, he did not see justice. These issues were never resolved,” Carmen said.
She said hearing Corona malign their father was “the most painful moment.” She said their father was a farmer, contrary to Corona’s allegation he was unemployed and lived off the wealth of the Basa matriarch.
“Because of his passion for farming and agriculture, our grandmother Lola Charing gave him the Libis property after he graduated with a degree in animal husbandry from the University of California Davis, rated one of the best schools for that field,” Carmen said.
She added this property was never in Asuncion’s name.
Her sister Anna said they lived simply during their days at the Libis home, raising poultry and pigs. “You don’t have to live in a mansion to be happy,” she said, referring to Asuncion and her kids.
Mrs. Corona's libel case vs Jose
“We state for the record that we think the libel case filed against our father and the other owners of BGEI, including Sister Flory Basa, were unfair, unjust and were pursued due to the power and influence of CJ corona and his wife Cristina,” Carmen said.
A libel case was filed by Cristina against her uncle Jose before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court. This was in response to Jose's move to place advertisements in national newspapers contesting Cristina's role in BGEI. He had issued public notices and subsequently filed an estafa case against Cristina.
During the impeachment trial, the defense had placed on the witness stand Quezon City Clerk of Court Lucita Cristi, who said a decision on the libel was rendered on September 5, 2001 ordering Jose and the other respondents to pay Cristina moral damages and attorney’s fees totaling P500,000. Corona was then working in the Office of the President.
Carmen said, however, that Corona's presence in court hearings and his influence as a Palace official had an “implied” impact on the case. She said an official of the Securities and Exchange Commission had told them: “Malakas ang kalaban niyo.”
She alleged she saw Corona once during one of hearings on the libel case.
Corona, who was not yet a member of the Supreme Court in September 2001, had denied exerting any influence on the case. He had said that had he influenced these cases, all the other related cases would already be resolved at this time.
Anna said these cases are still going on until now “to make our lives miserable.”
Battle over BGEI
The libel case which Mrs. Corona won paved the way for Corona’s daughter, Carla, to be the lone bidder for BGEI shares. She eventually ended up controlling the company.
In his testimony on Tuesday, Corona read a letter from Carla recounting how she ended up buying BGEI shares in 2002.
The court had then ordered an auction to satisfy the damages awarded to Cristina for the libel case she won against Jose.
In her statement, Carla said she made a maximum bid of only P50,000 because of the “risk of buying into a very messy corporation.”
She said the shares for the auction totaled only 220, contrary to claims of Jose that he owned 4,860 of BGEI.
A share then was worth P100 apiece. Thus, she bid at the purchase price of P28,000.
She said that if the “owners” were interested in getting back the shares, they can still buy these from her as set in the auction rules. Until now, however, they still hadn't done so.
'Insults via Inquirer'
“Jose Maria Basa was not the one oppressed. He was the one who oppressed my mother-in-law and the family of my mother-in-law,” Corona told the court.
“We were insulted non-stop in one newspaper [Inquirer] on why my wife was allegedly so greedy, cunning, shameless, and with many different adjectives used against her--no, they’re not true,” he added.
Corona said Jose had wanted to get Asuncion’s share in BGEI's Sampaloc property, which Mrs. Corona sold to the Manila City government in 2001 for P34.7 million.
However, according to Corona, his mother-in-law opposed this and told Jose: ‘Enough is enough. You already got my share in Libis, but I kept quiet. You already got so many properties from mama and I said nothing. But you still want to get this one remaining property so you could sell it?’”
'Time to let go'
Carmen said they want an end to the messy legal battle against the Coronas.
“We want this to end and not allow this to pass on to future generations. I don't want my kids to deal with this," she said.
She said they will continue to pray for Cristina and her family. As of posting, the chief justice was still in the Medical City to guard against a possible heart attack.
Carmen said she never thought they would be dragged into the impeachment trial. She admitted though that the prosecution was able to help them “uncover more things we’ve never uncovered.”
Anna added: “Both [Jose and Asuncion] are gone already, it’s time to let go…We don’t want to pass all the anger, the bitterness and the jealousies that they had between them.”