Enrile questions relevance of testimonies of 2 defense witnessesBy Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile questioned the relevance of the testimony of two witnesses presented by the defense panel on Monday.
Enrile repeatedly inquired what was the rationale of the defense in calling Randy Rutaquio, the register of deeds of the City of Taguig, and Benz John Ignacio Lim, property manager of The Columns-Ayala condominium on Ayala and Gil Puyat Avenues in Makati.
Rutaquio, who had been earlier called to the stand by the prosecution, testified on four condominium certificates of title (CCT) issued to Chief Justice Renato Corona and his wife, Cristina, on Jan. 25, 2010. The titles cover the penthouse unit and three parking slots for the Bellagio property in Taguig.
At this point, Enrile pointed out to a defense counsel, Noel Lazaro, that the senators were anxiously waiting for answers from the defense on issues such as the Chief Justice’s statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) which “did not call for a reflection of acquisition cost of real properties involved.”
Lazaro admitted that the acquisition cost was “left blank” in all the SALNs of the Chief Justice since Corona joined the Supreme Court in 2002.
But although the acquisition cost was not reflected, “however, the deed of absolute sale was publicly disclosed and filed” by the Chief Justice before concerned agencies such as the Register of Deeds of Taguig and the Bureau of Internal Revenue, according to Lazaro.
He explained that the defense was presenting Rutaquio as its own witness “to prove that along with the issuance of the titles, there will be relevant documents in his office, more particularly the deed of absolute sale and the certificate authorizing registration pertaining to this Bellagio property.”
Lazaro also said that the second purpose of Rutaquio’s testimony was “to prove” that another transfer certificate of title covering a property in McKinley Hill, also in Taguig, under the name of Ma. Charina R. Corona was issued by the Taguig register of deeds in October 2008, and entered into between Megaworld Corp. and Charina, a daughter of the Chief Justice.
To which Enrile asked: “What is the relevance to this impeachment trial of that property?”
Lazaro replied that this would prove that the property was not included in any of the SALNs of the Chief Justice because “it is in fact owned by another person under the name of Ma. Charina Corona.”
The McKinley property was listed under the name of Ma. Charina Corona and cost P6.196 million.
A defense lawyer, Jose Roy III, called Lim to testify that the Coronas owned unit 31-B in The Columns-Ayala condominium. But when Roy belabored the point on the job description of Lim as well as the payment of association dues of Mrs. Corona, a puzzled Enrile asked: “What is the relevance of all of these?”
Enrile said that he was made to understand that the witness was being presented to explain why the Columns condominium penthouse was bought in a prior year but was reflected in the Chief Justice’s SALN only in 2010.