MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE 3) - Chief Justice Renato Corona's daughter bought property in the United States less than a month before buying a P6.1 million property in McKinley Hill, The Fort, Taguig in 2008, veteran journalist Raissa Robles revealed Monday.
Speaking to ANC, Robles said she has information that Corona's daughter, Maria Charina, bought the US property 22 days before buying the McKinley property.
"The property is very intriguing because it was bought shortly before the McKinley property was bought. That was in 2008. So it was CJ Corona who brought in his family into the picture so I think it is very pertinent, relevant and material that people follow the money trail and that I think makes his dollar bank deposits very relevant to the case," she told Mornings@ANC.
Robles pointed out it is only Maria Charina who is the sole owner of the property after her husband signed a waiver.
"The clearest thing though is that it is only the daughter who owns the property. It is not a conjugal thing. The husband signed a waiver to the property. You wonder why the arrangement was that way. And the property was bought 22 days before the McKinley property was bought. You ask yourself – why would someone take 2 liabilities so close to each other, almost at the same time? Is this a period of recession in the US?" she said.
Robles said she got her information through "crowdsourcing" in her blog. She said at least 10 people gave leads about the Corona property and at least 1 gave evidence.
(Click here to read Raissa's new blog entry, Corona's daughter bought California and The Fort properties 22 days of each other)
Defense spokesman Karen Jimeno, meanwhile, said the information about Charina Corona's US property is irrelevant to the impeachment trial.
"This conversation about the US properties is irrelevant in relation to the impeachment because we have to remember that in our search for truth, we have rules to follow," she said.
"When we are talking about the impeachment case, at the current impeachment trial, the prosecution has already rested their case and it would be violative of the due process rights of the respondent here if we were to add new allegations and new issues that were not covered by the original impeachment complaint," she added.
Jimeno said any allegation about the Corona family owning properties in the US should have been presented by the prosecution in the impeachment trial.
She said she does not know if Charina owns a house in the US but would not be surprised if she does own one.
"The Chief Justice has a daughter who's been living in the US for several years now so it is natural for her to buy property there and I don't think she is unable to afford that. From what I know, she is a doctor and the husband also has a professional job there. They can afford property," she said.
Jimeno said one temptation for non-lawyers is to include all of Corona’s properties in the impeachment trial. “For non-lawyers, the temptation here - well if he has other properties, let's talk about it now, it's a search for truth. But we also have to do it the proper way because we are under a constitutional government,” she said.
CJ doesn't own US property
Chief Justice Corona earlier denied he and his family own real estate properties in the United States.
In a statement in response to a question by a blogger on whether he has properties in the US, Corona said: “The addresses cited by Raissa Robles were the apartments rented by my two daughters, both licensed physical therapists in the United States, at various times over the past 14 years.”
In her blog entry entitled “Does Renato C. Corona have a clone living in the US?”, Robles said she obtained records from the US linking the names of Corona and his family’s to two properties in the United States.
“I’m asking this question because a certain Renato C. Corona is linked to addresses in Tampa, Florida and Mountain View, California by US public records,” she said.
But Corona said these were temporary mailing addresses at those various times.
“The house in Bayshore, Tampa, Florida is owned by a family friend where we stayed in the few times that we visited Tampa and Orlando/Disney World. That is also a mailing address,” he said.
Corona insisted: “We do not own any property in the United States.”
Robles, however, said Corona should clarify his statement that his family does not own any property in the US.
"What did CJ Corona mean by the pronoun 'we?' Did ‘we’ mean him and his wife only or did he mean he and his family?" she asked.
Robles said she wants to know how Corona was able to afford his properties. She said Corona hails from an upper-middle income family and that his father used to work at the Bureau of Internal Revenue.
“It is Cristina’s family that is well off. If you go to my blog, there is a story on Corona through Corona’s eyes – about their love story and you can see that they struggled. When he went to Harvard, he went on a scholarship. You know I appreciate the fact that Chief Justice Corona struggled to be where he is right now but to say that CJ Corona is a man of extraordinary means is, I think, quite laying it thick,” she said.
Robles said many people have started questioning her motives for writing her blog entries on the Chief Justice. She denied that she is anti-Corona, pointing out that she is only interested in the truth.
"I am a journalist and we do have to dig up facts and there is also the thrill of the chase and other people can’t understand that," she said.
She also denied being the “small lady” that allegedly gave documents to House prosecutors about Corona’s bank accounts.
Jimeno, meanwhile, said she respects Robles’ right to freedom of speech and expression.
However, she urged Robles to consider the implications of her stories since these are not covered by the impeachment case and might cast doubt on Corona’s character.
“In our search for truth, we have to be responsible on what we write about and its effect on the reputation of others,” she said.