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

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