By MARK MERUEƑAS, GMA News December 22, 2011 4:25pm

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Thursday said it was merely "coincidental" that the funds misuse complaint against Chief Justice Renato Corona's wife began rolling anew at a time when the Chief Justice is to face an impeachment trial next month.

Through her legal counsel, Ma. Cristina Corona on Thursday submitted an 16-page counter affidavit denying any misuse of P170,000 as president and chairman of the John Hay Management Corp (JHMC) from 2008 to 2010.

Mrs. Corona allegedly either charged expenses to JHMC or reimbursed amounts incurred at Camp John Hay in Baguio City.

The complaint against her was filed with the DOJ by former JHMC general manager Frank Daytec in July last year. Daytec migrated to Canada shortly after lodging the complaint. After almost a year and a half since the complaint was filed, the Justice Department carried out a preliminary investigation on the matter.

But De Lima said the timing of the investigation should not be put in question. "If you are implying that I instigated that because of this impeachment, I absolutely and categorically deny that."

"Nagkataon lang na it was set in motion [now] (It so happened that the case was set in motion now)," De Lima said.

After Thursday's preliminary investigation, Daytec's legal counsel and sister Cheryl Daytec said that even if Mrs. Corona failed to reimburse some of the amount in question, "the fact is, she asked for reimbursement and that alone consummates the crime."

Like De Lima, Cheryl said there was no conspiracy in the sudden "revival" of the case.

"It is unfortunate that the investigation coincided with the impeachment case... Besides, hindi nga dapat sabihin 'na-revive' kasi hindi naman namatay ang kaso to begin with (Besides, it is not correct to say that the case was revived because it never died to begin with)," said Cheryl, who denied being part of any political party but said she was an "activist."

But Mrs. Corona insisted on casting doubt on the "suspicious timing of the resurrection" of the complaint against her.

"It does not take much effort to see that this is directly and unequivocally connected to the political pressure by some quarters for my husband... to inhibit from certain cases pending in the Supreme Court or altogether resign from the Court," she said in a statement.

The Chief Justice is scheduled to face an impeachment trial at the Senate in January to answer eight allegations of betrayal of public trust among other charges. He is particularly being criticized for his perceived bias for former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who appointed him as chief justice.

Corona has already vowed to face the charges against him even as several individuals including those from the Integrated Bar of the Philippines have asked the court to issue a temporary restraining order, barring the Senate from moving on with the impeachment trial next month.

Mrs. Corona subscribed to her affidavit Thursday morning before Deputy Chief State Prosecutor Richard Fadullon at about 10 a.m. The affidavit was later filed during the preliminary investigation conducted by State Prosecutor Vimar Barcellano. Representing Mr. Daytec was his sister, while Corona was represented by Stanley Fabito.

Lawyer Daytec said their camp was given 15 days to file a manifestation that his brother - complainant Daytec - is willing to return to the Philippines from Canada to testify in case the complaint gets elevated to a trial court. Corona's camp will be given 10 days to comment on the manifestation, and the PI panel will have two months to resolve the complaint. — RSJ, GMA News



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“There is no doubt that we are staring at a constitutional crisis right in the face,” said Supreme Court spokesperson Midas Marquez, after the House of Representatives impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona. But on the day Marquez uttered his grave declaration, the Philippine republic seemed none the worse for wear from the supposed titanic and historic crisis it was going through. All three co-equal branches of government continued to operate normally—even the Supreme Court, which, Marquez admitted, would continue to function regularly, despite the impeachment of the Chief Justice.

By sunset of that day, nothing untoward had happened to the state or to its citizens. Whatever large-scale disruption there was would, in fact, occur only the next day—on the Supreme Court’s turf, when Marquez, also the court administrator, enjoined everyone in the judicial branch of government to suspend work for the day to listen to Corona’s speech decrying his impeachment and vowing to cling to his post by hook or by crook. Among the hearings affected by the court suspensions was the Ampatuan massacre trial. Marquez would subsequently deny that he ordered a “court holiday,” but an Iloilo judge said he got the call from Marquez himself.

In any case, nearly the country’s entire judiciary ground to a halt, with employees of Manila salas even trooping to the Supreme Court grounds to cheer as their embattled chief launched a counterattack against President Aquino and his allies in Congress with a sour, caustic peroration that sounded more like a campaign stump speech, and whose main meat—“Handa po akong humarap sa paglilitis”—the courts could have been told about without them having to go on work stoppage. Incidentally, the high court itself has forbidden government personnel from suspending official work to engage in rallies or politically related activities. Surely this counted as one. But for the Chief Justice’s sake, one supposes, a creative reinterpretation of the law was again in order.

The anomalous court holiday derives from the same hubristic mindset that informs the so-called “constitutional crisis” Marquez troubles his head with: the idea that the Supreme Court is Corona, and Corona is the Supreme Court, and any attack on the Chief Justice is therefore also an assault on the Court and the branch of government it heads. “Make no mistake,” said Marquez, “this is an assault not only on the person of Chief Justice Corona, not only on his office, not only on the Supreme Court. This is an assault on all the rights, powers and privileges of the entire judiciary.”

Corona himself, unperturbed by any scintilla of humility or circumspection, has no problem proclaiming that he and the office he holds are indeed one and the same: “I am here. I am not going anywhere. I am your defender and most of all I am your Chief Justice. Together we will face these challenges and fight all who dare to destroy the Court and our system of justice under the Constitution.”

Ah, the Constitution. It’s a good thing Corona mentioned it, because nowhere in that document does it say that any government official becomes one with the office he or she holds, and that that government official may be removed from office only at the risk of damaging the office itself. When President Joseph Estrada was impeached by Congress, did the nation hear him complain that the onslaught against him was “an assault on all the rights, powers and privileges” of the presidency? Even Estrada wasn’t too dumb to claim that. The Constitution, in fact, lays out the opposite spirit. All government officials, whether elected or appointed, are accountable for their actions, and successful enforcement of that accountability—through constitutional offices such as the courts, the Office of the Ombudsman, the Sandiganbayan—could only disinfect and strengthen the offices defiled by their wayward personnel.

But, since the Chief Justice can’t be sued in his own court, the Constitution mandates one avenue by which to enforce accountability on him: impeachment. Loud and clear. When hard questions, then, are asked of the nation’s chief magistrate, when he is asked to explain himself on matters where his fairness, impartiality and fidelity to the oath of office he took are perceived to be in doubt, why should that be, necessarily and automatically, an assault on his office and the entire judiciary itself?

Corona’s impeachment is about Corona alone. He and his office are not one and indissoluble. To claim otherwise is the height of delusional conceit.

Corona wife summoned over funds misuse rap

Corona wife summoned over funds misuse rap

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The wife of impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona has been subpoenaed to appear in a preliminary investigation at the Department of Justice on a complaint alleging she misused the funds of John Hay Management Corp. (JHMC), where she was a former top officer.

JHMC is the estate manager of the Camp John Hay Special Economic Zone and a subsidiary of the state-owned Bases Conversion and Development Authority.

The complaint against Cristina Corona for “unauthorized use of public funds” was filed by Frank Daytec, former JHMC operations group manager.

The JHMC public relations office has denied Daytec’s allegations.

State Prosecutor Vimar Barcellano has subpoenaed Mrs. Corona and Daytec to a preliminary investigation on Dec. 22, according to a copy of the subpoena obtained by the Inquirer.

Mrs. Corona was part of the JHMC board of directors from 2001 and appointed the firm’s president and chair in 2007.

Conflict of interest

Her husband, then Supreme Court Associate Justice Corona, told the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) when he was interviewed in April last year for the position of chief justice that he had asked his wife to resign from JHMC.

Some JBC members raised the employment of Corona’s wife at JHMC as a possible conflict of interest issue.

The Supreme Court announced that Mrs. Corona resigned from JHMC on July 10, 2010, about two months after her husband was appointed Chief Justice by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Daytec migrated with his family to Canada on the same day he filed his complaint in the DOJ against Mrs. Corona. He works as an accountant for the University of Calgary but has indicated he was returning to the Philippines to pursue his case, his relatives here said.

Some reservations

Daytec’s complaint implicated Chief Justice Corona because of allegedly questionable expenses for which his wife was reimbursed by JHMC.

Daytec will be represented at the DOJ hearing by lawyer Cheryl Daytec-Yangot, his sister and wife of ex-Baguio Councilor Leandro Yangot, a JHMC board member.

Barcellano had scheduled hearings of the case for Dec. 15 and 22, but Daytec-Yangot said she could only attend next week’s hearing because she received the notices only on Dec. 14.

Leandro Yangot said Daytec had planned to sue Mrs. Corona in the Office of the Ombudsman. “But my brother-in-law had reservations because the office then was controlled by Merceditas Gutierrez [who resigned after being impeached this year], so he went to the DOJ, instead,” he said.

LP member

Yangot, a Liberal Party member, said portions of the complaint and its annexes formed part of the evidence put together by the House of Representatives when it impeached the Chief Justice on Monday.

Mrs. Corona stood by her husband’s side when, in his speech before supporters at the Supreme Court in Manila on Wednesday, he condemned her inclusion in the articles of impeachment against him. He described the charges that implicated his wife as “the height of disrespect.”

Showing a pattern

Article III of the impeachment case accused the Chief Justice of betraying the public trust by “creating an excessive entanglement with (Arroyo) through her appointment of his wife to office.”

Daytec was appointed JHMC operations manager in 2008. He claimed to have discovered anomalies in JHMC’s financial transactions under Mrs. Corona’s leadership.

Yangot said his brother-in-law was quickly subjected to an investigation for allegedly stealing lumber for a private camp fire “even though he was granted permission by another JHMC official.”

Daytec’s DOJ complaint described Mrs. Corona’s activities as JHMC president until 2010 as showing “a pattern of abuse and misuse,” according to a copy of Daytec’s affidavit. It cited payment documents indicating she stayed at the Baguio Country Club (BCC) with the Chief Justice at JHMC’s expense.

Daytec said Mrs. Corona’s BCC expenses made on separate occasions from 2008 to 2009 were shouldered by JHMC but that there was no reason to justify the payments as legitimate company expenses.

He said he tried to prevent the reimbursements only to be berated by JHMC officials.

“The Chief Justice… co-enjoyed the facilities, amenities and goods at the Baguio Country Club… instead of making himself the restraining presence and injunctive wall between his wife and the funds of JHMC,” Daytec said in the complaint.

Daytec accused the Coronas of “conjugal rape of public funds.”

In Manila, the Inquirer tried to get the Coronas’ reaction but calls and text messages to Supreme Court Administrator and spokesperson Jose Midas Marquez Friday afternoon drew no answer.

Needed investments

Few Baguio government and JHMC officials were willing to discuss Mrs. Corona’s actions as JHMC president.

Former Baguio Mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr. said it was during Mrs. Corona’s administration that JHMC donated a hectare of Camp John Hay property for a facility to process Baguio’s garbage.

“Mrs. Corona was also president when Camp John Hay drew in much needed investments from Ayala Land Inc. [which recently constructed the Baguio Ayala Technohub] and from [theme-park developer] Tree Top Adventure,” he said.

First posted 12:46 am | Saturday, December 17th, 2011