Corona properties undervalued?

from a report of Atom Araullo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 19 2012 11:53 PM | Updated as of Jan 20 2012 09:01 AM

Some properties belatedly declared in SALNs, documents show

MANILA, Philippines - After much wrangling, the statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs) of Chief Justice Renato Corona were finally released Wednesday during his trial.

Although the defense insists the statements only bolster their case, ABS-CBN News looked deeper into the properties of the chief justice, which appear to have been undervalued.

One of the properties is in Quezon City's La Vista Subdivision, where many rich and powerful people live.

House prosecutors allege that the lot on No. 57 Maranaw Street belonged to Chief Justice Renato Corona.

He allegedly sold it to his eldest child for P18 million in 2010.

The property was purchased by the Corona and his wife in 2003 for P11 million, based on the title obtained by ABS-CBN News at the Quezon City Register of Deeds.

The Corona couple also obtained the title for their condominium unit at 1 Burgundy Plaza, Quezon City in 2003, which they bought for P2 million.

But looking at Corona's SALN in 2003, it seems the properties were undervalued.

The La Vista lot is valued at only P3 million, while the Burgundy condo is valued at only P900,000.

University of the Philippines law professor Atty. Victoria Avena said this is a clear violation of the law.

"Ang tanong diyan, bakit naka tailor fit ang kanyang SALN? Bakit kaya?" she asked.

Titles also show the Coronas purchased a condominium unit in Makati in 2004, and in Taguig in 2005.

However, these were only reflected on the chief justice's SALN in 2010.

Download Transfer Certificates of Title of Coronas' properties

Violation of charter, betrayal of public trust?

"Violation iyan, kasi yearly dapat ang declaration," Avena said. "Bukod sa dapat may SALN, accurate dapat, kung hindi, falsification of documents iyun."

It also appears Corona undervalued his condominium unit at the Bellagio in Taguig.

The penthouse was purchased for P14.5 million in 2010, but was declared at only P6 million.

Corona also failed to declare a 600 square-meter lot in Quezon City purchased in 1995.

Although the Coronas sold 2 lots in 2010 for P26 million, they declared their net worth in the same year at only P22 million.

"Very strict ang Saligang Batas natin sa disclosure ng assets, liabilties and net worth ng mga public officials," Avena said.

When asked whether ommission or underdeclaration of properties is an impeachable offense," the former Presidential Commission on Good Government official replied, "Oo, ang nakikita ko dito, kung totoo, culapable violation of the Constitution iyan at betrayal of public trust."

The defense panel said discrepancies in market value and purchase price are not unusual and this does not necessarily mean that Corona misdeclared his properties.

"These are matters being taken up at the trial and we are barred from discussing them publicly. However, the discrepancies in fair market value and purchase price are not unusual because fair market value changes over the years. These are not conclusive that the Chief Justice misdeclared properties in his SALN," said Atty. Karen Jimeno. -- with ANC