By MARK MERUEÑAS, 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