'Corona's P11M cash advance came from unlicensed firm'

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 22 2012 10:31 PM | Updated as of Jan 23 2012 06:44 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Chief Justice Renato Corona's P11-million cash advance in 2003, which he supposedly used to pay for some of his condominium acquisitions, came from his wife's family corporation that had "ceased to operate legally by 2007," according to journalist and blogger Raissa Robles. 

In her new blog entry uploaded on Sunday, Robles discovered from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that Mrs. Cristina Corona's family corporation, Basa-Guidote Corp., which supposedly turned over an P11-million cash advance to Corona, was no longer legally operating in 2007, even though Corona was still supposedly making payments to the company until 2009.  

Corona's Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN) were turned over to the impeachment court last Wednesday. Its contents have since been put under public scrutiny. 

Robles said: "What he didn’t say in his SALN was that the lender company had its registration revoked by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 2003, the same year he got his cash advance. What this means is that the company – Basa-Guidote Enterprises, Inc. – ceased to operate legally by 2007 or three years after revocation. The law gives a three-year grace period for revoked companies to wind up their affairs."

Robles sought the opinion of legal experts about this and one lawyer, Prof. Rowena E.V. Daroy-Morales of the University of the Philippines College of Law, told her these facts raise the question of whether the parties involved in the P11-million cash advance were paying the corresponding taxes required under the law. 

"It’s true there can be a corporation that exists unofficially. But that will also mean it’s not subject to the regulatory processes of government and it raises the question whether they’re paying taxes," Morales said. 

Morales also suggested that while many are focusing on Corona's real estate acquisitions, no one appears to have looked into Corona's supposed liabilities. 

"Tingnan din natin ang validity ng declaration of liability. Look at the veracity of the entry of the liabilities. Whether there is indeed an obligation. Are they real liabilities? Was his cash advance really a loan from a corporation?" she said. 

Prof. Victoria Avena, who teaches evidence at the UP College of Law, meanwhile, said a company whose registration has already been cancelled "may no longer continue the business for which it was created and registered." 

"After SEC revocation, its only power is to wind up its affairs (i.e., liquidate its assets for payment and distribution to its creditors and stockholders, including bringing to collect and defending suits). If this winding up will take more than 3 years, the corporation should appoint an assignee or receiver, who will be the one to continue (collection, distribution, etc.) in behalf of the stockholders, because at the end of 3 years, the corporation absolutely ceases to exist and therefore cannot do any act or enter into any transaction even for the purpose of winding up," she said. 

Avena added: "...after the 3-year period, it ceases to exist absolutely so the act of anyone supposedly receiving payment in its behalf is null and void. Payment after the 3-year period should be made to its assignee or receiver."

When asked about the non-existent company, Corona's defense lawyer, former Justice Undersecretary Ramon Esguerra, told Robles: "I really do not know. I’m not in a position to answer that. We are not in that particular point. I cannot answer anymore."

However, Esguerra also added: "It does not mean the company (Basa-Guidote) can no longer operate even as an unregistered corporation. Puwede pang mag-business kahit walang corporation." 

He also pointed out that the defense had adopted the SALNs submitted to the impeachment court as its evidence. 

"Simply analyze what is stated in the SALN. The SALNs should speak for themselves. To look beyond the SALNs is beyond me already. If you want me to interpret and speculate wala na ako doon. I’d be incompetent as a witness," Esguerra said. 

For more about what Robles's own probe into this issue, click here to read her blog entry: 'Corona's P11M cash advance'