Legarda to prosecution: Apologize for misleading impeachment court on 45 Corona properties
Senator Loren Legarda on Thursday challenged the prosecutors to issue a public correction of their earlier charge that Chief Justice Renato Corona owned 45 real estate properties after they stipulated in open court that at least 21 of these did not belong to him.
“We’re not playing ball here. If they made the announcement in a press conference, the correction should also be made in a press conference. I think (the prosecutors) should correct themselves,” Legarda told reporters.
The senator noted that spokespersons of the prosecution panel went to town shortly before Corona’s impeachment trial began in January and accused the Chief Justice of failure to report the properties he allegedly owned.
Land Registration Authority (LRA) Administrator Eulalio Diaz III had testified that the prosecution panel’s disclosure was based on “raw data” he gave to the lead prosecutor, Representative Niel Tupas Jr., days before the trial started in January.
“If Diaz already indicated that most of the properties traced to Corona actually belonged to other persons, even mere namesakes of some family members, that was so misleading. The prosecution only has its own members to blame if they did not do staff work or did not exercise due diligence,” Legarda explained.
The senator reminded the prosecution, especially its spokespersons—Representatives Romero Quimbo, Erin Tañada and Juan Edgardo Angara—who made the revelation in their news conference, that Corona was “damaged” by their announcement.
“That’s why I wondered why the Chief Justice, in insisting that he only owned five of the 45 properties, assured whoever can find those properties that they can have them. It turns out that many of those in the list really do not belong to him at all,” she added.
Legarda recalled that after prosecution lawyers stipulated that 24 of the 45 properties did not belong to Corona, Senator Ralph Recto “recalled that three of those left are actually parking lots and seven parcels belong to (bonsai artist Demetrio) Vicente.”
“That’s what I’m saying. Complete staff work and due diligence would have prevented this,” Legarda said. “You cannot go to town with unverified information, especially given the big difference between the reported number of properties and what was admitted.”
Defense lawyer Jose Roy III said Diaz’s testimony proved that only five properties, not 45 titles, were registered under Corona’s name as shown by the computer-generated list from the LRA.
In fact, Roy said Senator Ralph Recto pointed out during the impeachment proceedings on Wednesday that the defense may have to explain Corona’s ownership of property in Xaverville which was covered by two land titles.
5 titled properties
“There’s only one (property) in issue left as far as Senator Recto is concerned and we actually agree,” Roy said in an interview.
“But the Chief Justice lives there. There’s clearly no intent to conceal his Xavierville property. And if there’s a problem about the title, it’s certainly not an impeachable offense,” he added.
Tranquil Salvador III, a defense spokesperson, reiterated that Corona and his wife Cristina only owned the condominium units in The Bellagio and Boni Ridge in Taguig City, in The Columns in Makati City and in Burgundy Plaza in Quezon City.
Salvador said the five properties were covered by six titles since the Xavierville property, composed of two adjacent lots, had two separate land titles.
“In due time, we will present evidence and witness to show that the Chief Justice only owned five properties and these were declared in his SALN (statement of assets, liabilities and net worth),” Salvador said.
Rico Paolo Quicho, also of the defense, said members of the House prosecution panel who previously claimed that the Chief Justice was the registered owner of 45 properties should “make an apology.”
“These people now know that the information given to them was incorrect and that there are no 45 properties,” Quicho said in a news briefing.
“For me, the most important thing here is for the people who committed the mistake in releasing the wrong information to apologize and issue a clarification not just for the defense panel, but for the interest of the people.”
Asked if they were asking for a public apology, he said: “It’s up to them. There are many ways to clarify this issue.”
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