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Hole in the war

/ 02:37 AM March 19, 2012

Forget the “hifalutin” discourse about democracy and independence of the judiciary in this war of words between both sides in the historic trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona. It has boiled down to one issue: his wealth.

Sure, there is a case pending in Corona’s home court, the Supreme Court itself, asking to declare the trial unconstitutional, meaning, for the High Court to stop it, thus saving the Chief Justice.

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While some senators already declared that such a line of the defense was irrelevant, it could be the last card that the Corona camp could play, particularly in a decision of conviction by the Senate.

But from the looks of things, even the defense team prepared heavily in the past couple of months for the issue on the Chief Justice’s alleged “hidden” wealth, as evident in the records of cash and property that he did not put in his SALN.

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Last week, for instance, defense witness Demetrio Vicente, who happens to be a cousin of the Chief Justice, claimed that he earned P3.5 million in 1990, so he could afford to buy seven parcels of land from Cristina Corona—for only P509,000.

That should explain why those pieces of real estate were not in the SALN of the Chief Justice. Well and good. But wait a minute, the whole story has yawning holes that test its believability. For instance, the titles to those lots were still in the name of Corona, 20 years after the supposed sale. Why? Because, according to Vicente, he could not pay for the P2,000 transfer tax to put them in his name.

He earned P3.5 million, right? He just spent about half a million pesos for the lots, right? He also said he had been paying for P10,000 in annual real estate taxes on those lots, right? Yet he could not come up with the amount needed for the transfer tax.

It seems the story of the sale by Corona is, according to the guys here in my barangay, another palusot. A senator even noted that if the sale of those lots, which took place in 1990, really did happen, how come Corona still declared the lots in his 2002 SALN, or 12 years after the purported sale.

Let us say Vicente really had P3.9 million when he bought the lots in 1990. The only structure in the property up to today is a little shack, fit for a caretaker, apparently to ward off illegal settlers. It is not even what we could call a modest house.

The defense team also tried to show that, starting as an associate justice in 2002, Corona could have earned enough to afford the condo units and still have millions to spare as “cash” in the bank. That, at least, was the intention behind the testimony of defense witness Araceli Bayuga, a budget and disbursement officer of the Supreme Court, who said the Chief Justice received a total of P21.6 million in salaries, allowances and other benefits in the past 10 years.

But only P5.8 million of the amount represented the basic salary of the Chief Justice during the period. It was the only amount that he could use for pricey condos. The rest was supposed to be used for running his office. The bulk of it, in other words, was not Corona’s to spend for personal things.

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I am certain the defense would not want to give us the impression that the Chief Justice pocketed the money—i.e. public funds, taken from our taxes.

*  *  *

What is this we hear that there is also war in the biggest labor group in the country—the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, or TUCP?

The group in fact issued a media statement, saying that TUCP president Democrito Mendoza, who is a lawyer, warned “non-affiliate organizations” to avoid using TUCP in “any unauthorized activity or undertaking.”

From what I gathered, the warning from Mendoza was directed at the group of former Senator Ernesto Herrera, who was recently ousted as TUCP general secretary.

According to the TUCP assistant general secretary, Hernan Nicdao, the Herrera group was organizing a convention, plus an election to the TUCP board, to be held possibly somewhere in San Juan.

Mendoza and Herrera fought over the presidency of TUCP recently. It seems that when Mendoza (still as TUCP president) got ill, Herrera took over from him. It is said that when Mendoza got back in shape, ready to serve the organization again, Herrera would not want to give up the post.

Thus, early this month the TUCP ousted Mendoza, together with two other organizations—the Alyansa ng Manggagawang Pilipinong Organisado (Amapo) and the Philippine Federation of Labor.

Still, Mendoza is said to be retiring by the end of the year, and his sure replacement would have been nobody else but Herrera. I mean, why are they still fighting?

Recently, you see, the Aquino (Part II) administration recently appointed Rosalinda Manabat to the National Anti-Poverty Commission. Manabat was said to be a “nominee” of Mendoza.

For his part, Herrera submitted to the Palace the name of another person to the same position. From what I gathered, he even wrote a letter to our leader Benigno Simeon (a.k.a. BS) showing his disappointment over the choice of Mendoza’s candidate.

Now, regarding the possible “coup” (labeled as a “convention” by the Herrera group), the TUCP press statement, quoting the general secretary, noted that if Herrera wants to become TUCP president, he should submit himself to an election approved by executive board, which would then have to be announced to TUCP standing members and affiliate federations. In short, a sanctioned, organized election.

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TAGS: Corona impeachment, Democrito Mendoza, Ernesto Herrera, impeachment trial, Labor, Renato Corona, Trade Union Congress of the Philippines
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