Corona daughter now owns Basa-Guidote
The wrangling between Cristina Corona and her relatives over the family-owned Basa-Guidote Enterprises Inc. (BGEI) Tuesday took center stage on Day 36 of Chief Justice Renato Corona’s impeachment trial.
Cristina moved for the execution of the conviction for libel in October 2002 of her uncle Jose Ma. Basa III even though she was aware that he had died in August of the same year, prosecutors pointed out during the testimony of Lucita Cristi, clerk of court of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 216.
As part of the execution of its order, the local court auctioned off 4,839 shares, representing 91 percent of BGEI. The shares were sold in 2003 for only P28,000 to a daughter of the Coronas, Carla Corona-Castillo, Quezon City RTC 216 sheriff Joseph Bisnar testified at the trial.
Proceeds of the sale of BGEI shares were meant to satisfy the P500,000 in damages that the court awarded to Cristina.
Two years earlier, BGEI received P34.7 million from the city government of Manila to which it had sold a property.
Under the Revised Penal Code, the criminal and administrative liability of an accused is extinguished once he dies. But the court still granted the writ of execution, private prosecutor Cynthia Corazon Roxas said.
The defense presented Cristi and Bisnar as witnesses to show the ownership of BGEI in relation to the P11-million loan the company extended to Corona, an item he declared in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).
Cristi confirmed that the court’s decision on the two libel cases filed by Cristina against her uncle and several other relatives became final on Oct. 12, 2002.
The court found Jose, his wife Raymunda and Virgilio Macaventa guilty and ordered them to pay P500,000 in moral damages and attorney’s fees, and sentenced them to a maximum one year, eight months and 21 days behind bars, she told the impeachment court.
Jose, his wife and Macaventa filed a motion for reconsideration on Oct. 9, 2001, which was denied on Sept. 2, 2002, Cristi said. “They did not appear during the promulgation of judgment,” she said, in reply to questions by defense lawyer Jose Roy III.
After the ruling became final, the defendants did not file any opposition or appeal. Cristina then filed a petition for a writ of execution in 2003, the clerk of court said.
The libel stemmed from an estafa case filed by Jose and several others against Cristina, alleging that she did not account for rent she collected from the tenants of a BGEI building in Manila.
Jose et al. placed ads in newspapers announcing that Cristina was not authorized to collect the rent and that they had filed an estafa case against her.
During cross-examination, Roxas confirmed from Cristi that Jose’s counsel, Fortun Narvasa Salazar law office, filed a motion to withdraw in December 2002 before the writ of execution was granted on April 24, 2003.
Attached to the motion was a Nov. 26, 2002, letter from Ana, Jose’s daughter, confirming that her father had passed away, Roxas pointed out.
“What I know is that Jose Basa is Cristina’s uncle,” Cristi said. She said she did not recall Cristina informing the court that her uncle had died.
Death in Carson City
But in another case pending with another court, Cristina submitted a manifestation that Jose died in Carson City, Nevada, on Aug. 29, 2002, even furnishing a death certificate, Roxas pointed out.
A few days after Jose’s counsel filed a motion for withdrawal, Cristina “notified another court that her uncle died sometime in August 2002,” Roxas said.
“There was actual notice given not only by the accused and his counsel, but by the private complainant herself, Cristina Corona,” Roxas said, wondering how the court could have enforced execution against Jose who had died.
Chief defense counsel Serafin Cuevas said the question should be addressed to the QC RTC judge since Cristi was a “mere” clerk of court, but Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile overruled him. Cristi confirmed that a writ of execution was issued even though Jose had died.
Sold for P28,000
Bisnar, for his part, testified that he implemented the writ of execution on Sept. 30, 2003, by auctioning off BGEI’s 4,839 shares for P28,000. These were sold to Carla.
Of these, 4,729 shares belonged to Jose and 110 shares to his wife and codefendant. BGEI had total capital shares of 10,000, of which 5,325 shares were issued, according to Roy.
“That sum of shares was sold at public auction for P28,000 to one Carla Corona-Castillo, the daughter of the Chief Justice,” Roy said. “The purpose for establishing these facts is to demonstrate to the court that whatever it is that was done to the Basa-Guidote funds will be capable of ratification by the purchaser of these shares as virtually the sole stockholder.”
The BGEI property in Manila was sold for P34.7 million to the city government in 2001.
Bisnar said the notice on the auction-sale of BGEI’s shares was posted on the courtroom’s bulletin board.
“I went to the lobby of the Hall of Justice and asked if there were any interested parties to bid for the shares of stocks. Only one person responded: Carla Castillo,” he said. He said only Cristina and her lawyer were also present during the auction.
Carla owns majority
Carla offered a P28,000 bid for the 4,839 shares of Jose and his wife. Since she was the only bidder, the shares were awarded to her, Bisnar said. Cristina did not make a bid.
“I issued the receipt to Mrs. Corona, and she signed the receipt,” he said.
The sheriff said he also issued a certificate of sale.
Fair market value a lot more
The 4,839 BGEI shares of Jose and his wife had a par value of P100 each or a P483,900. “Given the value of the [BGEI] property [in Manila], which was sold at P34.7 million, the fair market of the share is a lot, lot, lot more than the par value,” Enrile noted.
Enrile asked Bisnar why he did not even bother to urge Carla to increase her bid of P28,000 for the 4,839 BGEI shares.
The Senate President said that as sheriff, Bisnar was responsible for making sure that the estate of Jose would be able to raise and pay P500,000 as civil indemnity to Carla’s mother, Cristina, who won a libel case against her uncle.
Bisnar said Cristina, as assistant corporate secretary of BGEI, did not object when her daughter bid and won as sole bidder during a public auction.
“But you were the sheriff. To satisfy the P500,000 judgment, should you not have studied the (share value),” the Senate President asked.
Bisnar, however, insisted that Cristina’s position in the corporation allowed her to know the share price better.
Under cross-examination by private prosecutor Winston Gines, Bisnar said it was only during Tuesday’s hearing that he learned that Jose had died.
“I learned of it just now,” Bisnar said. He said he wasn’t familiar with the rules of court that the writ of execution could not be enforced on a deceased party.
“I wasn’t aware that he had died.”
Report late by 9 years
While the writ of execution was implemented in 2003, Bisnar admitted that he only filed a report on it in 2012.
“Nine years lapsed,” he said.
Gines pointed out that he could be charged with not reporting the immediate return of the writ of execution, or fined P5,000 for selling shares without notice. Bisnar acknowledged that he did not mention the posting of notice on the sale of shares in his report.
Bisnar served the writ of execution and notice of garnishment at the same time at the BGEI address on Lepanto Street in Sampaloc, Manila, based on the information given by Cristina’s lawyers.
Bisnar said he didn’t see the need to verify the address with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
“Besides the one who answered the garnishment claim was the assistant corporate secretary of Basa Guidote,” he said, referring to Cristina. Again, he said he didn’t verify this with the SEC since this was the information she had given to the court.
‘Extremely, highly irregular’
Asked by Enrile if the proceeds of the sale of the BGEI property in Manila went to Carla Corona, Roy said the proceeds went to the “current custodian,” whom he did not name yet.
“It’s a matter between family members,” Roy said.
Prosecution spokesperson Rep. Romero Quimbo called the sale of BGEI stocks to Castillo “extremely and highly irregular, illegal and void.”
He also said Bisnar should be liable for ignoring his functions as sheriff when he allowed the sale of BGEI shares to Castillo at a measly price.
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