Ombudsman upholds graft charge vs former Cebu lawmaker

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014


CEBU -- Former Cebu congresswoman Clavel Asas-Martinez, two top Cebu public officials and five others are facing graft charges before the Sandiganbayan over the alleged misuse of P15 million in pork barrel funds in 2002.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales upheld the indictment of Martinez, her son Celestino “Tining” Martinez III and Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza.

The three were charged with two counts of malversation of public funds (Article 217, Revised Penal Code) and two counts of violating Section 3(e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Radaza was then the treasurer of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines (GSP) Cebu Council when the alleged fund misappropriation was carried out. Clavel Martinez represented Cebu Province’s fourth district in the Lower House from 1998 to 2007.

Also charged were former Bogo municipal treasurer Rhett Minguez, municipal accountant Cresencio Verdida, Julieta Quiño, GSP cashier-designate; Alejandrita Meca, GSP executive director; and GSP bookeeper Rhodariza Kilantang.

Of the P15 million sourced from Clavel Martinez’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), about P600,000 went to the GSP Cebu Council “while the rest went to (former) Rep. Martinez.”

“All the elements required in both charges are present and there is no denying that respondents conspired with each other through evident bad faith and gross inexcusable negligence to defraud public funds,” the ombudsman said in a statement.

Her son Celestino III, who serves in the Provincial Board as the provincial federation president of the Association of Barangay Councils (ABC), said he still has to talk to his lawyers.

Tining was the mayor of Bogo City at the time of the alleged transaction, some 12 years ago. (His father, former congressman Celestino Jr., is the current city mayor.)

“I know for a fact that the money... was used to construct the building of the GSP,” the younger Martinez said, referring to the GSP headquarters located in Banilad, Cebu City.

The money also paid for some equipment.

“First, the GSP is not a bogus (organization), it’s an institution,” Tining Martinez said.

Meanwhile, Lapu-Lapu City Consultant Jonji Gonzales said the mayor would prefer to give her comment after she receives a copy of the complaint.

According to the ombudsman’s statement, Clavel Martinez, former GSP Cebu Council president, had allocated P15 million for the GSP’s anti-drug campaign.

The money was released after the Cebu Provincial Board passed a resolution in 2001 calling on the GSP and the Boy Scouts of the Philippines “to include in their programs the enforcement of an anti-drug campaign.” 

The Department of Budget and Management released the P15 million last May 13, 2002.

Yet despite the absence of a memorandum of agreement between the Bogo Municipal Government and the GSP, the money was released to Tining Martinez in two tranches of P7.5 million.

But the ombudsman said the transaction did not show up in the GSP’s monthly financial transactions or in the pre-audit report by the internal auditors.

Likewise, the allotment and obligation slips from Bogo were not supported by programs of works or documents showing related activities of the GSP. 

The anti-graft office pointed out that Tining Martinez, Minguez and Verdida “had utterly disregarded the proper procedure in disbursing the PDAF.”

“It cannot be overlooked that by reason of their office and duties, they have control over and are accountable for the funds,” the ombudsman said.

What the officials should have done was demand for the program of works or memorandum of agreement showing the activities by the GSP for its “anti-drug campaign program, to ensure the legitimacy of all the disbursements.”

“(The) release of funds to GSP-Cebu Council gave respondent Martinez unwarranted benefits, consenting and allowing her to take full control of the funds, thereafter misappropriating it,” the ombudsman said. (Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 09, 2014.

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