Basa-Guidote: A story of betrayal in the family
(Editor’s Note: Las Vegas-based Ana Basa issued this statement through Inquirer senior reporter Cynthia Balana.)
It all started when Cristina Roco-Corona entered the picture at Basa-Guidote Enterprises Inc. (BGEI). Since 1963, her father, Vicente Roco, served as BGEI president and her mother, Asuncion Basa, was board secretary. The stockholders never questioned the propriety of the actions of Cristina’s parents. For over two decades, everything was silent on the BGEI front. It turned out that it was only the lull before the storm.
The first hint of trouble came in 1989 when the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a preliminary injunction against the majority stockholders when my father, Jose Ma. Basa III, called for a meeting to elect new officers because of his apprehension over the management of the corporation when tenants started to file lawsuits against the corporation for various reasons.
Vicente Roco casually delegated his responsibility and functions to his daughter, Cristina. There was no board resolution to support that action as the rest of the board was completely ignorant of it. Cristina did not waste any time. As if making up for the decades of tranquility at BGEI, she went on to run the corporation according to her whims. She effectively kept the majority stockholders in the dark, completely unaware of the company’s operations and even more, of its financial status.
Stockholders kept in dark
Cristina never seemed to notice and certainly showed little concern about corporate laws. She went about running the business like she was the sole owner despite her mother, Asuncion, owning only 10 percent of the corporation, neither informing the majority stockholders nor accounting for whatever income it generated.
Despite the legal steps taken by the majority stockholders, the SEC saw nothing wrong with Cristina’s actions. It made no attempt to resolve the legal conflicts in the corporation. It did not even see anything wrong with Cristina’s failure to report the death of her father in 1993, as provided by law. The SEC did not care that it took two years, only in 1995, to report the death. The law of the jungle had taken over the corporation.
Cristina, along with her husband, Renato Corona, negotiated the sale of the BGEI’s centerpiece property, which was sold for P34.7 million to the City of Manila, with the check made out to Cristina Corona, in trust for BGEI. Like all the other transactions, the documents accompanying the sale were at best questionable and at worst dubious. Stockholders were never notified of the negotiations, sale and the proceeds from the payment.
It was not until the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona that the remaining stockholders learned of the P11-million cash advance from BGEI that Renato Corona reported in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worh (SALN). And with the revelations in the testimony last week of Sheriff Joseph Bisnar, Cristina pulled off the biggest caper yet in the corporation!
Apparently, 4,839 shares representing 90.7 percent of BGEI were auctioned off and sold to the Coronas’ daughter, Carla Corona-Castillo, in 2003 for an unconscionable amount of P28,000, to satisfy the P500,000 in damages that the court awarded to Cristina who won the libel suits she filed against my father and several BGEI stockholders and employees.
How could Cristina, as the supposed administrator and caretaker of BGEI, have allowed the sale when she knew how much money the corporation’s centerpiece property was sold for in 2001 to the City of Manila?
Cristina, through her lawyers, also notified the courts of my father’s death on Aug. 29, 2002. Under the Revised Penal Code, the criminal and administrative liability of an accused is extinguished once he dies. There was actual notice given and we are wondering how the court could have enforced the writ of execution against my father in 2003 and how the two libel cases filed by Cristina against my father became final on Oct. 12, 2002, months after he died.
Nearly all of those who came across the BGEI story and testimonies at the impeachment trial just couldn’t believe this could happen in a civilized country like the Philippines. And yet, it was there for all to see. A classic lecture on how to violate corporate laws, it stands out as one of the all-time wonders in Philippine business history. To the people who believe they live in a country governed by laws, these would seem outrageous, and yet, as outrageous, unjust, insane and unkind as it is, that is exactly what is happening to us, and it is not just Cristina’s doing.
Rape of BGEI
It is mind-boggling to think how Cristina was able to pull all of these off by herself. Renato Corona has been saying that ordinaryong tao lang din sila (they are just ordinary people). How then can Cristina as an ordinary wife wield so much power? Far more powerful than moneyed business corporations which, even if they tried, could not approximate what she was able to accomplish in over two decades.
The answer comes in the form of Renato Corona. He happened to be at the right place at the right time when Cristina got away with the rape of BGEI. With his powerful position and connections, he could obviously be the brain that pulled the strings so that Cristina would be able to accomplish what she did. There were some obvious manipulating and maneuvering of the cases. Considering the network of influence Renato Corona has cultivated over all those years, and with his present position as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court making him more powerful than ever, it does not take much to arrive at the conclusion that we were in the fight of our lives.
Lawyers were confused as to how one case (probate, which Cristina filed) was being tried in one court while another (determining the ownership of stockholders) was being heard in a different court. As if acting in obedience to an invisible hand, both courts raised legal issues that in effect meant one would not make a decision unless the other first resolves the case before it. Of course, each one could also be acting independently, prompted to have the other court resolve its case first for convenience. Let’s not even mention the SEC that is mandated to give a financial report on the status of the business but has been dragging its feet from the start.
My father used to say “justice delayed is justice denied.” My father, after years of struggling and fighting for justice, died heartbroken, drained emotionally and psychologically. From what he shared with us during the closing moments of his life, he was still in search of justice. With his passing, we have carried on with the legal battles that exacted so much from him and from all of us as well. Left with this responsibility to continue his fight for justice, we have picked up the torch to move ahead. Somehow, we believe that God believes in us, not only to trust us with these problems, but also for us to make a positive contribution by taking on and eventually overcoming a silent but very crooked thorn in the country’s judicial system. Some would have simply raised their hands in surrender but not my father. This is not surprising given his heroic bloodline.
Today, nothing much remains of BGEI. Cristina made sure of that, with the thorough cleansing of the stockholders as she has effected the transfer of whatever resources the BGEI had. The remaining stockholders of BGEI cannot be faulted for their pessimism because true to form, Renato Corona was in the right place at the right time.
Considering that we are fighting a just cause not only for our family but also for the good of the country and to save the integrity of the Supreme Court, we are now optimistic that Renato Corona is willing to take the witness stand at the impeachment trial. He knows the truth and that’s all we ask, for him to come out and tell the truth. Anyway, it all boils down to one fact, God’s approval. If He rules that it is time for this, no force on earth can prevent the outcome of the fate of Chief Justice Renato Corona from happening. There is nothing more reassuring in this world than the thought that while we cannot understand many things, we have a God who is in control.
First posted 12:36 am | Sunday, May 20th, 2012
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