(First of two parts)
Impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona reported in his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs) in 2003 and 2004 that he had obtained an P11-million cash advance from Basa-Guidote Enterprise Inc. (BGEI).
The alleged loan has turned media attention to BGEI, the company established in 1961 by the family of the Chief Justice’s wife, Cristina Roco-Corona, and the internal squabble that pitted one side of the family against another.
At the impeachment trial, Corona’s lawyers said the money [P32.6 million according to the prosecution] withdrawn by Corona from his three peso time deposit accounts with Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank) on Dec. 12, 2011, came from the proceeds of the sale of a piece of BGEI property to the City of Manila. The withdrawals came on the same day that 188 members of the House of Representatives impeached the Chief Justice.
Jose Ma. Basa III, one of the original BGEI stockholders and Cristina’s uncle, had filed an estafa case against his niece for her alleged failure to account for the P34-million income from the sale of a property on Bustillos Street in Sampaloc, Manila, to the city government.
The case, however, was dismissed by the court, and Cristina won a libel case against Jose Ma. III and his wife for putting out a public notice in the Philippine Daily Inquirer which she alleged was malicious and put her in a bad light. Jose Ma. III died not long after in the United States. [The notice appeared in the Classified Section of the Inquirer on June 4, 1995. It announced that Jose Ma. III, who claimed to be a majority stockholder, had filed a criminal case against Cristina for allegedly misappropriating rentals due BGEI.]
In this interview, Ana Basa, one of Jose Ma. III’s nine children and one of the heirs of the original stockholders of BGEI, talks about the family corporation and what she claims were the injustices heaped on them by the Corona couple. Some paragraphs of the transcript of the interview were interposed for clarity.
For security reasons, Ana, who is here on a short visit, requested the Inquirer not to reveal her whereabouts. She has been in the casino business for more than 20 years now in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The impeachment trial will resume on March 12, and it will be the turn of the defense panel to prove that the P11 million that Corona declared as a liability in his SALN and the P32.6 million he withdrew from PSBank on December 12 did not belong to him.
PDI: I understand you are already based in the US. Why are you here in the Philippines?
ANA BASA: We came here mainly to visit my Tita Flory, who is a nun. She just turned 90 and is one of the original stockholders of BGEI. She’s the sister of my father and Cristina’s mother, Asuncion Roco.
Part of the reason we came is because, you know, we never dreamed that BGEI or even the stockholders would be involved in this impeachment case. The only reason we are sitting here with you now is because Renato Corona included BGEI in his SALN report. That was the first time the stockholders learned about his business interest in BGEI. The original stockholders—my father, Asuncion Basa, Mario Basa and Sister Concepcion Basa—have passed away, except for Sister Flory Basa. So we were shocked that there was an P11-million cash advance given to Corona in his SALN report.
We’re coming out now because we’ve been asking the controlling body of BGEI to show us the corporate books. We’ve been asking for this for years and years, I believe since 1989. Cristina Corona is the administratrix of BGEI and stockholders have been denied their legal rights to inspect the books of BGEI.
The remaining stockholders, who are now in their late 80s and 90s, including Sister Flory Basa, still have pending cases involving BGEI. We’re not doing this to either support or oppose Corona’s impeachment. But in the past 20 plus years, they heaped sufferings upon my parents, Jose Ma. III and Raymunda “Randy,” and the rest of the stockholders of BGEI. So much injustice has happened and (sobbed) … this makes me sad when I talk about this because it brings back memories of my dad who fought and struggled just to get justice.
It’s almost impossible for someone like Cristina Roco-Corona to be able to heap this injustice on us without someone there to help her. Talagang inapi kami (We were really oppressed) in a way that I can’t even express in words the sufferings. So I just want to make people realize that we believe that a Chief Justice whom Cristina is married to was involved in this type of injustice because Cristina on her own could not have done that.
You know, there were incidents where my parents were being harassed. There were people sent to our house with guns, scaring my parents, and phone calls in the middle of the night because there were pending cases regarding this corporation.
Inapi kami talaga (We were really oppressed). If they can do (this) to their own blood relatives, what more to people out there who are old, are not politicians, are not rich and are not lawyers? My parents were just ordinary citizens, just being good citizens here in the Philippines and yet to have your own blood relatives cause this type of injustice is … (sobbed)
My father unfortunately passed away without getting justice. My mother, who is one of the stockholders and is now 83, still wants to see justice. Imagine up to now, we still have a warrant of arrest because there was a libel case that was filed against us. She wanted to come here to visit Tita Flory, a nun for over 60 years, on her 90th birthday. Sister Flor was actually asked about her wish. She said “I just wanna see justice in my lifetime.” Imagine a nun even saying that? And then there was an incident—our caretaker whom Corona pointed a gun at.
PDI: Who was that?
BASA: Mang Indo (Pedro Aguilon). It happened when my father came here because he heard complaints from tenants of BGEI. We went to the property where BGEI was located. Mang Indo was a caretaker there. He let us into the property one evening. The Coronas got mad. Mang Indo said he was so scared that he did not want to file a case against Corona after the latter put a gun to his head. He feared that if he filed a case, Corona might kill him.
The barangay captain was actually encouraging him to file a case but he was so afraid. He is not rich and does not have the means to do so.
He just executed a sworn statement of what actually happened to him so that in the event that something really happened to him, at least people would know this experience he had.
When Corona put a gun to his head, Corona said: Gusto mo bang pasabugin kong mukha mo (Do you want me to blast your face)? That’s what the Chief Justice said to him back in 1997 (showing to the Inquirer the original copy of Mang Indo’s sworn affidavit).
PDI: At that time, Corona was … what?
BASA : At that time, he was already with Malacañang Palace, and I believe he was adviser for legal affairs for President (Fidel) Ramos. I know my father had written to President Ramos about our case, what’s been happening to us, and to GMA (President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo).
We never really got any kind of support or response. I believe that Corona has been the dutiful power behind the scenes that allowed his wife to mock the laws of the land. She arrogated unto herself sole control of the family-owned Basa-Guidote Enterprises Inc. because, no matter how hard Cristina would have tried, she would not have succeeded without the assistance of her husband. He walked the corridors of power and obviously he knows how to make full use of the powers at his disposal.
I must confess that I agonize over this decision to come out and spill unflattering information about Chief Justice Corona. But this painful side of what happened to us must be told because the truth about Corona must be set free. He has made life miserable for our family and relatives. He can do more harm to others. We are coming out, comforted by the thought that we are doing our share to make the country aware of this man and to protect the integrity of the Supreme Court.
You know, we just want to let people know about our side of the story. This is not about the (impeachment) case. It’s about the injustice. We just want to bring it out in the open—the kind of person he is. Again, we’re not a vindictive people. We are not here to get even or anything. We just want to let the people know that the suffering and injustice that were inflicted on my family and the rest of the stockholders. We still haven’t received justice. This has been going on (for), my God! Over 20 years.
We’ve been wanting to get an accounting of BGEI. We have not received any kind of accounting. That’s all what we really wanted—to see the books. Stockholders are entitled to that. That’s their right and yet they’ve been deprived of that. So now that my dad had passed away, we at least would want to have my mom and the rest of the remaining stockholders to be able to live peacefully, knowing that justice has been served.
PDI: Have you been following the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Corona?
BASA: Yeah. Actually, since it first came out, we were shocked to read that in the papers that there was an impeachment trial that was going to happen against Chief Justice Corona. The reason that we’re following is that BGEI has been brought up. … In fact, we really feel sad for his family and what they must be going through.
PDI: And the Corona children?
BASA: May sympathy din naman ako sa family.
In God’s time
PDI: What about Cristina?
BASA: I said family.
PDI: The Chief Justice is in trouble for betrayal of public trust, graft and corruption, and culpable violation of the Constitution. Do you see any poetic justice here?
BASA: We always felt that we’re not in control, God is in control. Everything’s gonna happen in God’s time, so perhaps all of our prayers are being answered. Tita Flory is very forgiving because she’s a nun, but what about the truth? Even if you forgive someone, what about the truth? What about the injustice? This is the reason why, against all odds, the Basa family is pressing on with the struggle for justice.
It is a struggle for all the abuse and excesses they did to their own clan. It is a struggle and will continue until the “Honorable” Chief Justice will be made to answer for all the injustices and for mocking the laws of the land. It is about justice and redeeming the Filipino’s hope and trust in the workings of democracy and government.
What we know for sure is that God will render justice with all fairness, equality and firmness that have been denied the Basa family and so many others in their long and lonely fight for dignity. Indeed, all the trouble and tears will not be in vain.
PDI: Considering the public humiliation that the Coronas are going through (because of the impeachment), can you now say that’s prayers heard?
BASA: We always felt that everything happens in God’s time. We did not bring this out. What’s happening to them is their own doing. We did not do anything to cause that to them. They brought it on themselves. We just happened to be included in the impeachment case because it was mentioned in the SALN report.
And I know that Corona’s lawyers were saying, “Why are they coming out only now?” It’s because we only found out [about the P11 million and P32.6 million recently]. Had we known about these things, we could have come out in the open much earlier.
But we didn’t know, besides we were so helpless and powerless. As I said, we’ve been kept in the dark all these years about BGEI. We didn’t know about the cash advance, that the money withdrawn on Dec. 12, 2011, from three different accounts under Corona’s name was said to belong to BGEI.
PDI: Do you see this impeachment as a welcome development for the heirs?
BASA: Well, with the impeachment, what happened was there were a lot of revelations for us.
PDI: Do you see the light at the end of the tunnel?
BASA: Well, you know what? I used to say that we could not see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully, this will be the last chapter of this whole ugly, bitter struggle that we have experienced. It’s very painful to really watch our family suffer in their hands. You know, it says “who are we to judge?” I’m not judging anybody.
(To be continued)