Seares: This former Girl Scouts-Cebu executive director was at large after she was charged with eight others in 2012-2014 over a local congresswoman’s P24.4M pork barrel mess in 2002. Alejandrita Meca surrendered only in 2022, was convicted this week, the last of the accused who were all found guilty.

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Seares: This former Girl Scouts-Cebu executive director was at large after she was charged with eight others in 2012-2014 over a local congresswoman’s P24.4M pork barrel mess in 2002. Alejandrita Meca surrendered only in 2022, was convicted this week, the last of the accused who were all found guilty.

[] Meca waived right to testify and rested her case, following a heart attack two months into her trial. Sandiganbayan meted Meca with multiple jail terms and ordered to pay P14.4M civil liability and barred forever from holding public office.

[] Her eight co-accused -- including two Cebu congresswomen, the Bogo mayor and his vice mayor -- were convicted in 2022 and are presumably on appeal.

[1] MECA DIDN’T TESTIFY. The Sandiganbayan Sixth Division and the public are denied information about what Alejandrita Meca, former executive director of Girl Scouts of the Philippines (GSP)-Cebu Council, thought of her alleged role in the 2002 loss or misspending of P14.4 million from the P24.4 million pork barrel of then Cebu fourth-district congresswoman Clavel A. Martinez.

The Ombudsman filed corruption and malversation charges against nine persons, including Meca, in 2012 and 2014 and all were convicted in 2022, except Meca who was still at large at the time.

Why the public doesn’t know Meca’s story: She didn’t present her side as she had been a fugitive for more than 10 years since warrants of arrest for her and her co-accused were issued after the Ombudsman filed criminal charges in 2012 and 2014. The Sandiganbayan archived her case and revived it when she came under the court’s jurisdiction.

Some two months after she “voluntarily surrendered” two years ago (in 2022), Meca posted bail and attended hearings. But after a heart attack, doctors certified that Meca wasn’t physically fit to stand trial. She then waived her right to testify. The presentation of her witnesses, scheduled to begin on July 18, 2023, was aborted, and she rested her case.

Also, she hadn’t talked with media, or had been reported, about her case, where news coverage focused on the public officials involved.

[2] LAST ACCUSED CONVICTED. Last May 17, 2022, eight of the nine accused in the 2002 Bogo pork barrel “scandal” were convicted, and meted jail sentences and other penalties. This week, Meca, the last person accused in the Bogo pork barrel controversy, was convicted.

The Sandiganbayan decision of more than 70 pages, promulgated Tuesday, April 30, 2024, was written by Associate Justice Kevin Narce Vivero and concurred with by AJs Sara Jane Fernandez and Karl Miranda, the same panel that decided in 2022.

Other takeaways from the latest ruling:

[3] GIRL SCOUT EXEC’S ROLE: ‘COG IN WHEEL, COMPLETED TAPESTRY.’ The Sandiganbayan used figures of speech in describing Meca’s role in the group crime:

Meca was “a vital cog in the wheel of conspiracy” to misappropriate the public funds sourced from then congresswoman Clavel Martinez’s allocation from PDAF or Priority Development Assistance Fund, more un-popularly known as pork barrel.

Meca used her GSP position, the ruling said, to secure the fund aid from Mrs. Martinez, even without following the organization’s by-laws. Meca signed the voucher that allowed two withdrawals P7.5 million each on June 20 and September 20 of 2002, of which P7.1 million and P7.3 million were released to Mrs. Martinez, “without any resolution from the GSP-Cebu board of trustees, enabling her to use them for (the congresswoman’s) benefit.”

“In the grand scheme of things,” Meca “completed the tapestry of events inextricably woven  in this syndicate corruption.

“In sum,” the Sandiganbayan said, it was “proved beyond reasonable doubt” Meca was a “conspirator.”

[4] PUBLIC ATTENTION FIXED ON GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS. Aside from not being fully in the glare of public light -- as Meca had been able to evade arrest for about a decade -- she had less news attraction than the elected and appointed officials in government who were her co-accused.

Accused with the congresswoman were her son Celestino Martinez III, mayor of Bogo, then still a town (it became a city on on June 16, 2007; her daughter Maria Cielo Martinez, municipal vice mayor; municipal treasurer Rhett Minguez; and municipal accountant Cresencio Verdida. Another congresswoman, who was then also a former mayor, was Paz Radaza who had served as GSP-treasurer, then as chapter president. From the private organization GSP, Meca’s co-accused were bookkeeper Rhodariza Kilantang and cashier Julieta Quino. Maria Cielo Martinez was also GSP-Cebu treasurer; so was Paz Radaza who later became its president.

[5] MECA’S PENALTY, COMPARED WITH WHAT HER CO-ACCUSED GOT. In the April 30 decision, Meca was sentenced to six to 10 years in jail for each two counts of corruption and 10 to 17 years for each of two counts of malversation of public funds and fines totaling P14.4 million (plus 6 percent interest until fully paid) and perpetual disqualification from public office.

Two years ago, on May 17, 2022, the eight accused, except for fugitive Meca, were meted jail terms ranging from 18 to 30 years on three counts of graft and 24 to 51 years on three counts of malversation, along with fines of P10 million, P7.1 million, and P7.3 million for the first, second and third charges respectively. They were also perpetually disqualified from holding any public office, with any retirement benefits forfeited.

[Related: Ruling on P25M pork barrel mess vs. Martinezes, Radaza, 5 others not yet final, SunStar, May 20, 2022]

Instead of a motion for recon, treasurer Rhett Minguez filed a notice of appeal. The others must have filed their appeal to the Supreme Court after their recon motions were rejected. It was not yet known what step Meca had taken following the Sandiganbayan ruling against her. Radaza had probably asked for a preliminary investigation, which she alleged she didn’t get while the others had gone to the SC.

[6] WHO BENEFITED FROM FRUITS. In its first decision last May 2022, the Sandiganbayan acknowledged that the evidence showed that it was only accused Clavel A. Martinez” who “reaped the fruits of what they sowed as no amount was shown to have been shared or given to any of the other accused.”

Yet the others were punished -- including Meca, the last person convicted -- as they were “all shown to have conspired with one another and are therefore liable as principals.” They “extended aid to the accused… in the execution of all acts, necessary and indispensable” for the commission of the crime. Whether Meca, or Radaza, or any other co-accused received a peso from the pork barrel money was painfully ironic but wasn’t essential element of the crime.

[7] OFFICIAL INTENT OF THE SPENDING. How was the road to the crimes of graft and malversation paved? The usual good, even noble intention. Purportedly intended for the anti-drug campaign activities of the Girl Scouts-Cebu Council, the sum was routed through the municipality of Bogo, released to the GSP-Cebu Council, and withdrawn in favor of then congresswoman Martinez.

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