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CJ wife confirms property sale

MANILA, Philippines - The wife of Chief Justice Renato Corona confirmed yesterday the testimony of witness Demetrio Vicente in the impeachment trial that they had sold their 1,700-square-meter property in Marikina City to him in 1990.

In a text message, Cristina Corona corroborated the claim of Vicente that the sale was made through a broker.

“My Marikina property was sold through a broker who brought Demetrio Vicente to my house as her buyer. Even if the buyer turned out to be a relative of my husband, we paid the broker’s fee because we did not sell it directly to him,” she explained.

Mrs. Corona explained that after they sold the property to Vicente, second cousin of the Chief Justice, they had lost contact with him and were not aware of the status of the title.

“Since we sold the property to him in 1990, we didn’t see him again until 2012 when I was told that the title of this property was still in my name,” she said.

She said the buyer’s wife, Lita Vicente, is first cousin of Kenny Morales, husband of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales “who according to Mr. Vicente has been to his house.”

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She also recalled that it was lawyer Beth Mantoya who notarized the deed of sale.

“She used to notarize documents in SGV. When she resigned from SGV, she joined Romulo Mabanta law office, which assigned her to Hong Kong for many years. She has since married a foreigner and last we heard she is now living in Switzerland with her husband,” Mrs. Corona said.

Credible witness

Senators Sergio Osmeña III and Panfilo Lacson found Vicente’s testimony credible.

“His answers, the consistency, he seemed to know what he was doing. He was quite sure of his facts. He was not perfect, which indicates a patina of truth,” Osmeña said.

Interviewed after the hearing of the Commission on Appointments (CA) yesterday, Osmeña revealed that he asked some friends if Vicente indeed lived in the 3,400-sq meter property in Marikina City.

Vicente, 60, testified last Tuesday that he owned the Marikina properties, 1,700 square meters of which were under the name of Mrs. Cristina Roco Corona, and the other 1,700 square meters under the name of Cristina’s sister, Miriam.

He said he bought the two properties – contained in eight titles – for P1.8 million in 1990, using the money he got from the sale of his property in Tandang Sora, Quezon City.

Vicente revealed during cross-examination that he and the Chief Justice are second cousins, and that he initially learned about the property through a buyer, only to find out later that it belonged to Corona’s wife and her sister.

The defense panel presented Vicente as witness during the trial in a bid to disprove the prosecution’s claims that Corona failed to declare some properties in his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) from 2001 to 2010.

The prosecution initially revealed that Corona had 45 properties under his name, but they eventually reduced the number to some 20 properties when confronted by senator-judges during the trial last month.

After enduring almost three hours of grilling last Tuesday, Vicente was “spontaneous” in his answer and did not falter despite various questions by some senator-judges, Lacson noted.

In last Tuesday’s trial, Vicente told Sen. Loren Legarda that Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez and another retired justice can attest to the truthfulness of his claims that he now owns the Marikina property since they were visitors in his home.

Sen. Ralph Recto said it is very hard to “simulate” the sale between Mrs. Corona and Vicente, especially sincethere are documents dating back to the 1990s.

On the issue of Vicente’s failure to have the titles of the properties transferred to his name, Osmeña said this situation was not unique to a land buyer.

“That’s a matter of laziness. And yes, it happens in this country. I have relatives whose properties are still under the name of their grandmothers,” he said.

Bishop commends Tiangco

Meanwhile, Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez yesterday praised Navotas Rep. Tobias Tiangco for testifying in the impeachment case, especially if it was motivated by the desire to bring out the truth.

Iñiguez, whose diocese covers Caloocan, Malabon and Navotas, said it was only from the newspapers that he learned that Tiangco showed up at the Senate impeachment court last Monday.

Tiangco reportedly told the court that he was not shown a copy of the impeachment complaint at the House of Representatives before he was asked to sign it.

“I do not know the parameters but if the purpose (of his appearance at the Senate impeachment court) was to ferret out the truth then I commend the congressman for coming out,” said Iñiguez, also the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Public Affairs Committee chairman.

He also believed that if the Navotas congressman gave a truthful account then he should stand by his statement.

Tiangco allegedly received criticisms from his fellow congressmen, including Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, who said that the Navotas legislator’s testimony was an “insult” to the 188 lawmakers who signed the impeachment complaint against Corona. He also reportedly said that Tiangco should expect to be subjected to disciplinary proceedings because of his actions. – Evelyn Macairan

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