MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - The wife of Chief Justice Renato Corona purchased an P11-million property at the posh La Vista subdivision in Quezon City in 2003 despite not having declared any income prior to the transaction, Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Commissioner Kim Henares disclosed Wednesday before the Senate impeachment court.
Henares said Corona's wife, Cristina, registered with the bureau as a one-time taxpayer for the property transaction in Sept. 9, 2003.
However, she said: "She was not registered as taxpayer. And therefore, for all legal purposes as far as BIR is concerned, she has not earned any income prior to Sept. 9, 2003."
Henares said they discovered this only last Friday after they were subpoenaed to bring documents relating to the Corona family's tax payments.
Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile, the presiding judge in the trial, asked Henares why the bureau did not investigate the matter immediately.
"This transaction happened in September 2003. I was not commissioner of internal revenue at that time," she replied.
The prosecution called Henares to the witness stand to testify on the chief justice's and his wife's income tax returns (ITRs). This is in relation to Article 2 of the impeachment complaint against Corona, alleging that he failed to disclose his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs).
Henares, meanwhile, disclosed that for the years 2002 to 2010, Corona did not file ITRs with the BIR.
She said what they have are the "alpha lists" submitted to them by the Supreme Court, which directly withholds the taxes from the compensation of its individual employees and remits these to the BIR.
Taxpayers are required by the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC) to submit their ITRs every year. However, Section 51 of the NIRC exempts individuals from the filing if their taxes have already been correctly withheld by their employers.
Henares said that the Supreme Court only filed the required alpha lists from 2006 to 2010, but failed to submit those from 2002 to 2005.
Based on the lists, Corona earned P465,597 in 2006, P488,156 in 2007, P604,388 in 2008, P621,528 in 2009, and P657,755 in 2010.
On the other hand, except for her one-time tax registration in 2003, Corona's wife also did not file ITRs, according to Henares.
Mrs. Corona, however, is included in the alpha list submitted by John Hay Management Corp., where she served as chair in 2007 and president from 2008 to 2010.
Henares said Cristina's gross earnings were P623,157.30 in 2007, P1.24 million in 2008, P1.106 million in 2009, and P469,986 in 2010. She also earned director fees in the amounts of P400,000 in 2007, P220,000 in 2008, P318,000 in 2009 and P240,000 in 2010.
Aside from the failure to disclose his SALNs, the prosecution has accused the chief justice of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act by not disclosing certain properties he acquired in his SALNs, and accumulating assets through illegal income.
These are contained in paragraphs 2.3 and 2.4 under Article 2 of the impeachment complaint, which was the subject of a debate among lawyers in the previous proceedings.
Corona's defense team has argued that ill-gotten wealth was not properly alleged in the complaint, therefore any evidence presented by the prosecution to prove it is inadmissible in court.
At the resumption of the trial on Wednesday, senator-judges decided in favor of the defense, disallowing the introduction of evidence on 2.4.
The prosecution panel has been insisting that Corona acquired illegal wealth based on the properties under his and his wife's names that have values beyond the spouses' known incomes.
Citing data from the Land Registration Authority, the prosecution earlier reported a total of 45 properties allegedly owned by Corona and his family, of which at least 13 are in the names of the chief justice and his wife.
The properties included the one in La Vista, Quezon City; a P14.5 million condominium unit at the Bellagio 1 in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City; a P2.5 million in One Burgundy Plaza in Katipunan, Quezon City; and another condominium worth P3.5 million in Makati City.
Corona's 2003 SALN showed that he made an P11-million cash advance from the company owned by his wife supposedly to help fund his property acquisitions. His subsequent SALNs showed he was able to fully pay for that amount in 2010.