As if his troubles were not enough, Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona who is now undergoing impeachment proceedings will face a new probe, this time over one of his vehicles found to be bearing an apparently false license plate number.
The Highway Patrol Group (HPG) of the Philippine National Police said it found that Corona’s black Chevrolet Suburban sports utility vehicle was sporting a plate number registered to another car, prompting its director, Chief Supt. Leonardo Espina, to order an investigation.
Espina said the irregularity first came to the agency’s attention when a complainant, a businessman from Cebu, saw TV footage of Corona’s vehicle on the Senate grounds on Wednesday and was “surprised” to find it bore the same plate number as his white Mitsubishi L300 van.
The plate number which both vehicles carried was ZEE 868.
Bonifacio Gomez Jr., the president of Nutripharm Inc., a pharmaceutical company based in Happy Valley in Cebu, filed a complaint with the HPG, which then looked at the records of the Land Transportation Office (LTO), Espina said.
“When we pulled out all the papers at the LTO, we saw that true enough, that license plate belonged to an L300 van,” Espina said.
He said he instructed his men to ask Corona or his aides for the registration papers of the SUV and other documents. He said the vehicle would not be impounded pending the result of the investigation.
But Espina added that it was not clear to the HPG if Corona indeed owned the SUV, just that he was seen on TV boarding that vehicle. One of Corona’s lawyers, Tranquil Salvador, said the SUV was a rental vehicle.
As of Friday evening, he said, an HPG team had already been deployed to check with Corona and seek an explanation.
The owner of the SUV could face violations of Batas Pambansa 43, a law penalizing the illegal transfer of license plates. It is punishable by a fine of P5,000 or imprisonment of six months, or both, depending on the discretion of the court.
Asked if the matter could be the LTO’s fault, Espina said: “I don’t think so. But we will determine that after the investigation.”