Anatomy of a pork barrel case

Rappler.com
A former lawmaker tells the anti-graft court she merely identified her pork barrel beneficiaries and is not liable for its misuse

MANILA, Philippines – Here’s one case that might give us an insight into how the pork barrel issue will be fought in court.

In seeking the dismissal of cases against her before the Sandiganbayan, the camp of former Cebu 4th district rep. Clavel Martinez, who’s facing graft and malversation charges for allegedly diverting money from her pork barrel fund, claims she “merely identified the beneficiaries of her pork barrel funds.”

Martinez’s lawyers claimed there was no ground for the Office of the Ombudsman to charge her for graft or malversation because the crucial elements of either offenses are lacking.

“Accused Clavel Martinez is not an accountable public officer since she merely identified the beneficiary of her PDAF and it was the Girl Scout of the Philippines (GSP)-Cebu Council which was tasked to implement the Anti-Drug Campaign Project,” the defense said.

Ombudsman investigators said Martinez set aside P10 million from her Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in June 2002 as financial assistance to the anti-illegal drugs campaign of the GSP-Cebu Council.

A team of government auditors found out that the amount was coursed through the municipal government of Bogo which issued on Sept 22, 2003 a check worth P11.5 million payable to “GSP-Cebu/treasurer.”

Payable to Martinez

However, the check did not go into GSP-Cebu’s account but was found to have been replaced with a manager’s check worth P11.5 million made payable to “GSP-Cebu/Ma. Cielo Martinez,” which was then deposited at the BPI-Cebu Capitol bearing account no. 9063-0451-92 on Oct 20, 2003.

Exactly a week later, some P11.5 million was taken out of the said account while a P10 million sum went into BPI Account No. 9663-0063-01 under the name of Martinez.

Martinez has denied owning the account, saying it was a trust fund maintained by GSP-Cebu.

She added that two checks worth P4 million and P6 million were eventually returned to the municipal government of Bogo.

The Sandiganbayan, however, found probable cause in both cases and issued warrants of arrest on March 18, 2013 against Martinez and her co-defendants that include her son and former Bogo municipal mayor Celestino Martinez III, municipal treasurer Rhett Minguez and municipal accountant Cresencio Verdida.

Also covered by the arrest orders were GSP- Cebu Council bookkeeper Rhodariza Kilantang, cashier-designate Julieta Quiño, and treasurer Maria Cielo Martinez, daughter of the former Cebu solon.

The court affirmed the prosecution’s “no bail” recommendation in the malversation charge, as the amount involved was over the P22,000 threshold.

But the warrants were temporarily suspended after the defendants filed an Omnibus Motion to Dismiss.

The defense said both informations suffered from fatal defects because there was no proof that the defendants held final authority over the funds or that the government suffered undue injury from the fund transfers.

“Considering that the funds were not in Accused’ official custody or control since it is beyond their official functions to implement the Anti-Drug Campaign of the Province for which the fun was allotted, then the charge of malversation is totally baseless,” defense lawyer Jesus Victor Valdez said. – Rappler.com