MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) - Chief Justice Renato Corona got a P10 million discount for the purchase of a penthouse unit in The Bellagio in The Fort, Taguig City, one of the impeachment prosecutors said Monday.
During Corona's impeachment trial, private prosecutor Joseph Joemer Perez said he received information from Megaworld finance director Giovanni Ng that Corona received a P10 million discount for the 300-square-meter Bellagio property, which was purchased for P14 million.
“To be candid, the witness informed us that the chief justice received a 40% discount, or P10 million for the property. We believe this is highly material because it goes to the property in the statement of assets, liabilities and net worth," he said after being questioned by Sen. Aquilino 'Koko' Pimentel III.
Perez said the P10 million discount could fall under Article 2 of the Impeachment Complaint, which accuses Corona of failure to "truthfully" disclose his SALN.
The prosecutor questioned Corona's accepting the P10 million discount especially from a developer that might have pending cases before the SC.
Ng, meanwhile, said the sales and marketing department usually gives up to 15% discount to clients who avail of shorter term payments for units.
"In this case, the unit was paid in roughly around a year if I'm not mistaken. So we would normally give around a 15% (discount) to most if not all buyers," he said.
He also said the marketing department gave certain considerations intricate to the Coronas' purchase of The Bellagio condo unit.
He said the particular unit, 38-B, had technical and finishing issues that would have meant reworking the unit.
"Fortunately they were able to find a client, in this case the spouses Corona and rather than going into costly rectification but just factor in the cost and lower the cost," he said.
He also said that at the time of acquisition in 2008, the marketing department was affected by a gloomy sentiment brought on by the onset of the global financial crisis. "They had a bearish factor towards sales," he said.
"Marketing is responsible for the price. It is their lookout, their judgment and they have to be accountable for their decision," he said.
The Senate impeachment court has issued a subpoena for Megaworld official Noli Hernandez on the pricing of the property, including the 40% discount.
Graft and corruption?
Rep. Erin Tañada, a House impeachment panel spokesman, said the discount goes against the Judicial Code of Conduct and the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
He said judges of lower courts are penalized for accepting bribes or other benefits for lower amounts.
"We have to be fair. We must have higher standards for members of the Supreme Court," he said during a press conference.
Prosecutors also said it violates a provision in Republic Act No. 6713 on the Code of Conduct of public officials, which states: "Solicitation or acceptance of gifts. — Public officials and employees shall not solicit or accept, directly or indirectly, any gift, gratuity, favor, entertainment, loan or anything of monetary value from any person in the course of their official duties or in connection with any operation being regulated by, or any transaction which may be affected by the functions of their office."
Prosecutors said they are now investigating pending cases Megaworld may have had or continue to have before the Supreme Court. They will also find out if Corona was a ponente in any cases affecting Megaworld.
A journalist-blogger, Raissa Robles, has reported [https://raissarobles.com/2012/01/07/realty-broker-coronas-posh-condo-a-steal-at-p14-million/] that Corona penned a decision favoring Megaworld in March 31, 2004.
Defense lawyer Tranquil Salvador III, meanwhile, said the information about the alleged P10 million discount did not come from Ng but the private prosecutor. "The lawyer is just there to ask questions and not testify," he said.
Lawyer Karen Jimeno said Perez did not even swear an oath "so there is no way to find out if he is telling the truth."