Clavel’s ‘fall’

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Thursday, July 24, 2014


CLAVEL Asas-Martinez was once a shining star in Cebu politics or, to be precise, one of the Cebuanos who was recognizable in the House of Representatives when she became its member from 1998 to 2007. Among her achievements was her selection as one of the House prosecutors in the impeachment trial of former president Joseph Estrada in 2000-2001.

That trial made a senator out of Joker Arroyo, the leader of the House panel of prosecutors. Although Clavel played a minor role in the proceedings, the few moments that she spoke did make many Cebuanos proud. I scan the list of current Cebu lawmakers and I could say that the “golden era” of Cebu politics where Clavel belonged has long ended.

Clavel, together with her husband, former congressman and now Bogo City Mayor Celestino “Junie” Martinez Jr., used to rule Cebu’s fourth district.

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The political dynasty was built by Junie in Bogo, which he used as his base to eventually win the district’s congressional seat. He turned the reins of the district to Clavel, who held it for three terms.

The attempt of Junie and Clavel to turn over the district to their son Celestino III
(Tining) was stymied, however, by the entry of Benhur Salimbangon, who won an intensely contested match in 2007 (the win was voided in 2010, but Tining lost in the rematch in the elections of the same year. Salimbangon, though, couldn’t wrest Bogo from the Martinezes.

Last July 14, the Sandiganbayan issued a warrant for the arrest of Clavel, Tining, Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza and other former Bogo and Girl Scouts of the Philippines (GSP) officials. They are facing graft charges for the misuse of P15 million of Clavel’s pork barrel in 2002.

Clavel was said to have allocated the money sourced from her Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) for the anti-drug campaign of the GSP, which she headed at that time. Radaza was the GSP treasurer. According to the Office of the Ombudsman, which filed the case, the money was coursed through Bogo where Tining was mayor but only P600,000 surfaced in the GSP’s financial and audit reports.

Clavel virtually receded from public view since 2007, leaving the practice of politics to her husband and her son (Tining is an ex-officio member of the Provincial Board (PB). But her past is continuing to hound her. This is sad because when she used up her three-terms in the House, she was still perceived as a force in Cebu politics.

The case stemmed from an act that happened in 2002. Clavel, riding on the crest of that stint in the Estrada impeachment trial, became even more influential in the House at that time as an ally of Erap’s successor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Interestingly, it was under Arroyo that Janet Lim-Napoles and many lawmakers were able to accumulate wealth from their PDAF allocations.

To be fair, Clavel isn’t the only former and present Cebu lawmaker linked to irregularities involving the PDAF. A few others are in the Napoles list of alleged
scammers and may eventually be prosecuted.

Incidentally, this is happening at a time when the Martinezes are recovering lost ground. Clavel paved the way when she bolted from the Arroyo camp after the 2004 elections. That year, Junie ran for governor against former governor Gwendolyn Garcia and lost. Clavel accused the Garcia camp of cheating and was convinced Arroyo was in it too.

While Arroyo wasn’t impeached or ousted, her candidate for the presidency was badly defeated by Noynoy Aquino in the 2010 presidential elections. Luckily, the Martinezes had thrown their political lot with Aquino’s Liberal Party (LP) and are now reaping the political fruit of that decision.

But despite this political windfall, Clavel’s and the Martinezes’ political legacy may
have already been tainted.

(khanwens@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 25, 2014.

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