Coronas 'unjustly enriched' in BGEI dispute: JPE

by Ira Pedrasa and Aleta Nishimori,

Posted at May 30 2012 03:40 PM | Updated as of May 31 2012 02:23 AM

Says family feud over BGEI, walkout were most disturbing

MANILA, Philippines - Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said on Wednesday that among the issues raised against deposed Chief Justice Renato Corona, it was the family dispute within Basa-Guidote Enterprises Inc. (BGEI) which disturbed him, and it even made him think that there was “unjust enrichment” on the part of the Corona family.

In an interview with ANC's Headstart, Enrile said, “with all due respect to him [Corona], he was measured and I think he failed. Because in the handling of the Basa-Guidote case, I could not accept the proposition that she [Cristina Corona] never consulted him. Mrs. Corona is not a lawyer and the matter was a complicated issue.”

Enrile was referring to the battle for control over BGEI between the Basas and Mrs. Corona.

A libel case filed by Corona’s wife paved the way for her daughter, Carla, to be the lone bidder for BGEI shares. The court had then ordered an auction to satisfy the damages awarded to Cristina for the libel case she won against her late uncle, Jose Basa.

Cristina and their lawyers were the only ones who appeared during the auction. Total shares sold were 4,829 at a price of P28,000. This made Carla the major stockholder of the company owning 90.87% of shares of stock.

“My God, that to me was an unjust enrichment. If there is any unjust enrichment known, then that would be it because P28,000 for 98% control of the corporation with an asset of almost P35 million, and the transaction was between the mother and the daughter. I think any court in this world would rather raise its eyebrows in the case like that,” Enrile said.

BGEI sold a lot in Sampaloc, Manila to the city government in 2001 for P34.7 million. The check was given to Mrs. Corona even if there was no document authorizing her to receive the money. Mrs. Corona deposited the P34.7 million in their personal accounts. Mr. Corona got an P11 million cash advance from BGEI to buy a real property in Quezon City.

BGEI shares

In a letter submitted to the impeachment court read by Mr. Corona last week, Carla said the shares for the auction totaled only 220, contrary to claims of Jose that he owned 4,860 shares 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 haven't bought the shares.

The Basas issued a statement over the weekend saying they still have differences with the Coronas to resolve, including the dispute over BGEI shares.

In his vote on Tuesday, Enrile said it was Corona himself who “unhappily somehow revived this issue of the nature of his assets by introducing evidence to prove that his income and assets were legitimate and, by testimony, to show how he and his wife had saved and invested their savings in foreign currency over so many decades.”

Ombudsman's AMLC document

In the same ANC interview, Enrile said another factor that changed his position was the testimony of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.

“In the beginning, I was really trying to give the chief justice the benefit of the doubt. Ang nangyari doon, hindi ko malaman kung bakit pina-subpoena ng kanyang depensa yung Ombudsman,” he said.

He said the Ombudsman presented a report based on an Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) document that was “so detailed, no mind, even Einstein, cannot invent the details covered by those transactions. No mind or a legal mind or financial mind could concoct the contents of those documents and the numbers of documents and the transactions that happened over a period of 8 years. No one, in my opinion, could do it.”

'Walkout impact'

Enrile added Corona’s “walkout” last May 22 also affected his ruling.

“Yes. We felt there was some degree of rudeness. Of course, later on, we gave him the benefit of the doubt that he was medically infirm at the moment,” he said.

After his 3-hour opening statement, Corona went out of the plenary hall after suffering from hypoglycemia.

Enrile said he even gave the defense a piece of his mind after that incident. 

“The one that saw me first was [defense lawyer] Judd Roy and I said, 'Why did you not control your client? Why did you just allow him to walk out without being discharged by the court?' It was a problem for the court. There was some degree of disrespect. And what aggravated the problem was the way the Chief justice acted when he left the witness stand.”

Enrile said that when Corona returned to the Senate on May 25, he saw him at the holding room and explained the court's view.

“I asked him how he was and I told him ‘Mr. Chief Justice, I hope you understand our position here, there's nothing personal and we’re playing roles and it just so happens you're the respondent and I’m the presiding officer and I have to make rulings'.”

Enrile also claimed there was no politics in the Senate’s 20-3 decision finding Corona guilty as charged.