(Last of two parts)
(Editor’s Note: In this interview, Ana Basa, one of Jose Ma. Basa III’s nine children and one of the heirs of the original stockholders of Basa-Guidote Enterprises Inc., talks about the family corporation and what she says were the injustices heaped on them by Chief Justice Renato Corona and his wife Cristina.
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 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
She clarified on Tuesday a sentence in the introduction to Part 1 of the Q and A which reads: “Jose Ma. Basa III, one of the original BGEI incorporators, had filed an estafa case against his niece [Cristina] 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.”
Ana said the estafa case against Cristina Corona, filed in 1995, was about the BGEI rental income, not the proceeds from the sale of the property. )
Philippine Daily Inquirer: Of the original stockholders of Basa-Guidote, how many are still alive?
ANA BASA: Well, my Mom is 83 years old and she’s one of the stockholders. Sister Flor just turned 90; Cecilia Basa, spouse of Mario Basa who passed away; Cristina’s mom, Asuncion Roco, already passed away.
Basa is my grandfather, Guidote is my grandmother’s last name. That’s why it became Basa-Guidote Enterprises Inc. My grandmother, after my grandfather passed away, set up the corporation so that someday all her children would have a business, a life together.
I didn’t think in her wildest dreams that it would end up like this. BGEI is just a small corporation. It’s really about the injustice. It’s about us telling the truth. We just want the truth to come out, how these things just kinda got so out of control. Imagine one person being in sole control of a corporation? Her (Cristina’s) mom only had a 10-percent share!
PDI: How did it happen?
BASA: Like I said, we still have pending cases in court regarding BGEI. So we really would rather not discuss the cases right now.
PDI: I understand Cristina’s father was the president (of the corporation)?
BASA: Cristina’s father was a lawyer and he was the president of the corporation. Being a lawyer, we trusted him of course, Vicente Roco also being our tito. He eventually entrusted this to his daughter, Cristina, who became like his administratrix. Since then we never questioned anything because, you know, why should you not trust your own relatives? It was not until 1989 when we started receiving complaints from the tenants of the property [the Basa-Guidote Building on Legarda Street corner J. Figueras Street (formerly Bustillos) in Sampaloc, Manila].
My dad felt it was time (for us) to find out what was going on. He asked for an accounting but we have never been able to attain that. So I don’t understand why an administratrix of BGEI refuses to show us an accounting. That’s why when that piece of property in Manila was sold in 2001, expropriated, to the city of Manila, we didn’t really know what happened to the funds.
PDI: Have you not talked with Cristina?
BASA: I wrote Cristina a personal letter years ago … my father had already passed away, if we could just work this out. We don’t need to keep fighting over this whole thing. I’ve never been able to get her to respond and I believe it’s because she knew, this is just my feeling, that we could not fight them because they were so powerful. Not her alone, because she could not have done this on her own but she obviously is married to someone (who) at that time was already in Malacañang.
When he (Renato Corona) was nominated to be part of the Supreme Court as an associate justice, my father tried to oppose that with the JBC (Judicial and Bar Council) because we knew that the abuse that they’ve done toward us. If he can do that to us, what more (to) those who are not rich, who are not powerful, who are just ordinary people?
It’s important for the people to know that they have someone in the Supreme Court, particularly a Chief Justice whom they should trust because cases are under the Supreme Court and is part of the judicial system. But if people cannot trust [the Chief Justice], then something needs to be done. Because as I said, [if cases are decided] based on merits, would we still have pending cases? But it’s not about merits anymore. It is based on who your enemy is. We were even told by the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) and others told us, “Your problem is you have a powerful enemy.” We knew that.
We were told that we had a good case but our problem is our enemy. We hired lawyers but they quit. They became afraid because they were threatened and followed. They no longer wanted to represent us because they said they, they too, have families.
I said: Oh my God! Even lawyers were afraid to represent us. That’s not good for this country to have that sort of fear of a powerful enemy. To me [striking fear in the hearts of your enemy’s lawyers] is an abuse of his power.
PDI: On the P11 million (Corona’s cash advance from BGEI), do you have any idea how Corona was able to obtain that loan?
BASA: We were shocked. We saw it in his SALN. How can they make a cash advance? Shouldn’t they get some sort of a board resolution to allow the cash advance?
PDI: How come there was a withdrawal? What’s the business of Basa-Guidote?
BASA: We had rentals there, about eight tenants. That’s why I’m saying that for BGEI to be included in the impeachment trial, it’s just our family corporation. My grandmother, Rosario Guidote Basa, my dad, Tito Mario, Tita Monina and Tita Chitang, bless their souls, can’t even be at peace right now because all of this is still happening. I don’t think my lolo and lola ever imagined that by setting up a corporation the family was going to end up like this.
PDI: You were renting out the building to tenants?
BASA: We were renting out stalls and Cristina at the time was in charge of collecting rent.
PDI: Is lending money also part of your business?
BASA: I am uncertain of this.
PDI: What about the P32.6 million in three PSBank accounts, which according to his lawyers, was the money from Basa-Guidote? Probably, Cristina just put the money in the name of her husband for safekeeping because of pending cases.
BASA: I don’t know why it’s even under Renato Corona’s name because it should have been deposited under BGEI’s account.
I don’t know what to say about all that. We’re here really to try to get answers because we have not been able to obtain any kind of accounting for BGEI as to where the money went. The cash advance surprised us. We didn’t bring this out. We only found out during the impeachment trial because it was in his SALN.
PDI: What’s the status of this company? Is it closed already?
BASA: Well, apparently. I only found out during the impeachment trial that it was already dissolved in 2003.
PDI: Yes, and that’s according to the SEC.
BASA: If Cristina’s saying she’s the administratrix of BGEI, why doesn’t she report to the SEC all that she’s supposed to do? I believe that SEC was formed to protect corporations, but I can’t understand how one person can have full control [of a company] and the other stockholders are deprived of their rights.
PDI: The SEC said it (BGEI) failed to report three times already that was why it decided to dissolve it based on SEC rules.
BASA: Well, because Cristina, I guess, didn’t report to the SEC. I don’t know because we were not in control.
PDI: Where is the office of Basa-Guidote?
BASA: It was in Manila. It’s gone. The property has been expropriated.
PDI: By the city of Manila?
BASA: Yes. That was sold to the city of Manila, through Mayor Lito Atienza.
PDI: How come Corona was able to take out a loan from BGEI when it was already dissolved?
BASA: That’s what we would like to know. We really want to get some answers. I think they said that they were paying back the loans. To whom are they paying back? Let’s say they borrowed money from BGEI, and are paying back, where are they depositing the payments? I don’t know.
PDI: If the money paid by the Manila government for expropriating the Basa-Guidote property belonged to the company, why was it deposited in Renato Corona’s account instead of being deposited in a corporate account or in an escrow account?
BASA: We’d like to know. I don’t have any answers because I don’t know the laws here in the Philippines as far as corporate and banking [matters are concerned] if the check was made out to Cristina Corona in trust of BGEI. We don’t know where that check was deposited.
PDI: All of you are American citizens? All your siblings?
BASA: Yes, my father was not and he was one of the original stockholders. We’re the heirs.
PDI: So how many more are alive?
BASA: Well, Tita Flory is still around. My dad’s side, we are nine kids. Cristina’s side, there are eight siblings. Then my Tito Mario has nine. The two nuns have no children, obviously.
PDI: But the other sister is still alive, right? Can she talk?
BASA: You know what? As a nun, she’s very forgiving and we are all very forgiving people. I have long forgiven them. This is just about telling the truth.
PDI: So all in all there are 26 heirs?
BASA: Nine, nine and eight. I don’t know if Asuncion gave 10 percent of BGEI shares directly to Cristina or to the family. I think it was given to Cristina but how about the rest of her siblings?
You know, what is sad is that a family is supposed to be family. It’s sad because all of this turned out like this. But the fight is not just for us—me, my family. The fight really is more for justice. And even now we continue to fight because I told my father, on his death bed, “I would continue his fight for justice.”
PDI: That’s why the pending cases?
BASA: Well, it’s justice for the sufferings that were done to [us]. I said somebody needs to be accountable. You know when you do something, you need to be accountable for what you do. So I believe the Coronas need to be held accountable.
PDI: The Chief Justice has been saying it’s a family problem.
BASA: I don’t understand him saying in front of TV and newspapers that he “purposely stayed away from this because this BGEI is a family issue.” But then I personally saw him in court during our hearings with his security (detail). So if he purposely stayed away, why was he attending our hearings and standing in front of the judge during the hearing? I saw them walking into the judge’s chamber just before the hearing started. So at that time, I wondered why they entered the judge’s chamber and talked to the judge just before the hearing started.
Is that allowed? I really did not understand why it was happening back then. And all we could do was just sit and wait for the judge to come out for the hearing. And so obviously we lost our cases.
Like I said, why would he say he purposely stayed away. If he purposely stayed away, why was the money in his account and not under BGEI? How was he able to get a cash advance? That’s not purposely staying away. That is actually purposely being involved.
We just want answers. If my dad did not get justice in his lifetime, we would like to see at least my mother, my Tita Flory and the rest to get justice in their lifetime so that they can move on and enjoy peace. They can at least enjoy life different from spending the past 20 years being afraid, being so oppressed and being under duress because of these cases. That’s not how you wanna live the rest of your life as you get older.
PDI: Have you tried reconciling with Cristina?
BASA: Well, we did. We tried that. I sent a personal letter to Cristina to please, if anybody had done anything, let’s forgive and just be family. But they never responded. We tried to reach out and I asked many people to talk to the Coronas to see how we can put an end to this. But at that time, apparently they were not ready to do that. Again, because they were in power, so why settle with us? Because they could just step all over us. They still have the power and I think all of this is an abuse of his power.
My entire family … I don’t even know the right words—pain, suffering, frustrations, heartaches, you name it. We felt all that. In the end, we just want our family and relatives to feel somehow victorious that we got justice in our lifetime.
Again, like I said earlier, we’re coming out now because there’s been a lot of revelations that we’re finding out through the impeachment trial. It’s almost like … I don’t know how to call it. Is that a blessing in disguise or is this what they call karma? Because now, we at least finally got some answers but there’s still a lot of questions like you said. But we’re still waiting to get some answers.
I would like to believe and feel… I don’t wanna be afraid of them retaliating because we were traumatized all those years. We knew that we could easily feel that fear. Why can’t the Filipinos just live without fear or favor, you know? If there’s a case, why can’t it all just be done fairly without feeling that you need to be afraid of who you are up against?
PDI: Why are you in tears?
BASA: Because it’s bringing back sad memories of how my parents were suffering… the fear in their faces. I even had to send somebody to pick them up at our house because they were being harassed—people with guns walking around our house. And so we had to bring them to a hotel.
It’s just really sad for me to watch my parents and my other aunts to be so afraid for their lives.
PDI: Do you fear for your life, safety?
BASA: No, I shouldn’t. I shouldn’t fear for my life. Before, yeah. My parents were so afraid. We were all afraid because of the harassment, phone calls from people you don’t know.
We should really be able to live our lives without fear you know. Our fear stemmed from the fact that they were capable of harassing us.
We have to stress that I’m doing this also for the good of the country. Not only for us. It’s for the good of the country that there’ll be justice for everyone.