THE Sandiganbayan has struck down an attempt by former Cebu congresswoman Clavel Asas-Martinez and six others to have the graft charges against them dismissed before the trial ends.
The Sandiganbayan’s 6th Division denied the motions for leave to file a demurrer to evidence from Clavel, a lawyer, and her co-accused in a bid to convince the court to drop the case against them for lack of evidence.
Clavel’s co-respondents are her son former Bogo City mayor and now Board Member Celestino “Tining” Martinez III; her daughter, Bogo City Vice Mayor Ma. Cielo A. Martinez, who was then GSP treasurer; municipal treasurer Rhett Minguez; municipal accountant Cresencio Verdida; bookkeeper Rhodariza Kilantang; and GSP Cebu Council cashier Julieta Quino.
The Sandiganbayan said the denial of the respondents’ motion is without prejudice to the filing of their demurrers to evidence without prior leave of court, pursuant to Section 23, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure.
Martinez and her co-respondents are facing charges before the anti-graft court for keeping about P10 million in public funds, which had been allotted for the Girl Scouts of the Philippines (GSP), in Clavel’s personal account in 2002.
In 2013, Assistant Special Prosecutor Froilan Dayco filed the case for violation of Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code (malversation of public funds) against Martinez and her co-accused, saying they allegedly conspired to “misappropriate, embezzle and take away” the P10 million that was part of the then congresswoman’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) through “abandonment or negligence or permitted another person to take such funds for their personal use and benefit.”
On April 26, 2004, the Visayas-Ombudsman received documents from a “concerned and troubled official of GSP-Cebu Council” narrating how the former congresswoman, as president of GSP Cebu, allegedly disbursed her PDAF and deposited it in her personal account.
Aside from the P10 million, the anti-graft office also found that about P11.5 million from Martinez’s PDAF went to the GSP account but was later withdrawn by then GSP treasurer Martinez, through a manager’s check. The amount was then put into Clavel’s personal account.
The P11.5 million was later returned to the government when it was found that the funds were meant as pork barrel funds for Bayan Muna Party-list.
Vice mayor Martinez pleaded not guilty during her arraignment last June 10, 2014. She won in her re-election bid in the May 2016 elections. Her brother, Carlo Martinez, also won as city mayor.