Sun Star Manila - Prosecution witness denies Corona got a condo discount

31 January 2012

By Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex | Sunstar Manila

sunstar-manilaMANILA -- The witness of the prosecution panel denied that Chief Justice Renato Corona was given a 40-percent discount when he purchased the P14.5-million Bellagio penthouse unit in 2010.

Lawyer Joseph Joemer Perez earlier said the prosecution team was informed of the discount. Spokespersons for the prosecutors said the Chief Justice may have violated the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and the Code of Judicial Conduct for receiving the discount equivalent to P10 million.

Noli Hernandez, senior vice president for Megaworld Corporation’s marketing department, explained Tuesday that Corona was not given a discount but instead a “reduction” because the penthouse unit was semi-bare and rain-damaged.
“It made more economic sense to sell it as it was so it merited a reduction in price… Apart from this damage, basically, we just computed how much it would cost us if we will do redo everything...[We] factored that in and decided to sell it in reduced price,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez said the original price of the penthouse unit is P24 million. The Chief Justice and his wife, Cristina, bought the said unit for P14.5 million.

The Megaworld official meanwhile denied that the P10-million reduction in price was offered in relation to the cases they lost with the Supreme Court (SC). He said the Megaworld lost twice in cases pending before the SC.
Hernandez said that at the time the negotiations for the purchased unit were taking place, he did not know that it was Corona who was interested in the Bellagio property.

In a press statement, spokesperson Mon Esguerra of the defense panel said the prosecution would have wanted to make it appear that the large discount given by Megaworld Properties and Holdings, Inc. to Chief Justice Corona for his purchased unit was a "favor".

Records showed Megaworld Properties and Holdings, Inc. v. Cobarde (G.R. No. 156200) was penned by then Associate Justice Corona and was promulgated on March 31, 2004. This decision granted the petition of Megaworld and absolved it from the responsibility of paying broker’s commission in a compromise agreement.

In this case, the SC ordered Megaworld to be paid P5.8 million by the opposing parties.
"Connecting the decision to the alleged 40-percent discount amounting to P10 million requires some manipulative thinking," emphasized Esguerra.

Senator-judges Pia Cayetano and Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said they did not see the connection of Hernandez's testimony to Article II of the impeachment complaint. Article II refers to the Chief Justice’s non-disclosure of statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).

Cavite Representative Elpidio Barzaga explained that the prosecution wants to find out if Corona had enough cash to pay for the renovations in his unit. Barzaga said Corona’s SALN should have reflected this.
Senator Franklin Drilon stressed that Corona should have filed an “accurate and truthful SALN”.