Cebu congresswoman, other local officials convicted of corruption

John Sitchon

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Cebu congresswoman, other local officials convicted of corruption
Members of the Martinez dynasty of Bogo City and congresswoman Paz Radaza are convicted of graft and malversation of public funds through the pork barrel scam

CEBU, Philippines – Former Cebu Congresswoman Clavel A. Martinez and five other local officials were convicted by the Sandiganbayan on Wednesday, May 17, of three counts of graft and malversation of public funds linked to the pork barrel fund scam.

The decision, penned by Associate Justice Kevin Narce B. Vivero, found the defendants guilty of conspiracy to defraud the Girl Scouts of the Philippines (GSP)–Cebu Council and the Philippine government of P24.4 million.

The funds were sourced from Martinez’ PDAF allocation from 2002 and 2003. (READ: Ombudsman seeks suspension of Bogo City vice mayor over graft)

Also convicted is incumbent Lapu-Lapu City Congresswoman Paz Radaza, who was president of GSP-Cebu at the time, and GSP-Cebu treasurer Maria Cielo Martinez, a former Cebu 4th District representative, and daughter of former Bogo City (then a municipality) Mayor Celestino Martinez. 

Maria Cielo is the daughter of Clavel.

They were sentenced to a total of 14 and 16-years imprisonment, respectively.

Associate Justices Sarah Jane T. Fernandez and Karl B. Miranda also voted to convict.

GSP-Cebu bookkeeper Rhodariza Kilantang and cashier Julieta Quiño were convicted and sentenced to six years in jail per graft case for a total of 18 years.

Fines totaling P24.4 million were also imposed.

Defendants were also ordered to reimburse the government the amounts embezzled totaling P14.4 million.

The defendants are also perpetually disqualified from holding any other government positions in the future.

Radaza, who ran for Lapu-Lapu City mayor and lost, said in a statement she would file a Motion for Reconsideration.

Radaza admitted in a public statement on her Facebook page that she signed two checks as treasurer of GSP-Cebu in 2002.  

She also stated that in 2003, when she became president of the organization, she organized a special committee to investigate the case as there were no reports back then of what happened to the checks she had signed.

Ug giangkon pa gyud sa Sandiganbayan nga wala koy gibulsa bisan peso ani nga pondo. Giunsa pagkahitabo nga naka-ingon sila nga nakigkonsabo ko? (And it was also admitted by the Sandiganbayan that I did not pocket not even a peso from the fund. How did it happen that they could say I conspired?),” she said.

PDAF scam

The cases were initially filed in 2012, where graft investigators of the Office of the Ombudsman said a P10-million cash assistance was approved to GSP-Cebu to fund anti-illegal drug efforts in 2003.

According to the prosecutors, the money was sourced from the priority assistance development fund (PDAF) of Representative Clavel Martinez.

The PDAF was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2013, after dozens of lawmakers were implicated in the scandal.

According to the Ombudsman, the money on the first graft charge was coursed through the Bogo City, which issued a check in the said amount to GSP-Cebu in 2003.

The prosecutors showed that Quiño did not deposit the check to GSP-Cebu’s account, but instead requested Landbank of the Philippines replace it with a manager’s check payable to “GSP-Cebu/Ma. Cielo Martinez,” the latter being the treasurer of the private organization.

They found that the check was deposited into GSP-Cebu’s account with the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI).

According to the court decision, in October 2003, Cielo withdrew P11.5 million from the GSP account and deposited P10 million in her mother’s account. 

The second and third graft and malversation charges involved transactions that took place in June and September 2002, covering two pork barrel releases of P7.5 million each. 

Both transactions were coursed through Bogo City, which issued Landbank checks to GSP-Cebu.

GSP withdrew the amounts prepared by Kilantang and signed by Radaza as executive secretary, and Martinez, who was president of GSP-Cebu then.

“As the evidence on record tell us, the GSP-Cebu Council completed the subject PDAF allocation’s circuitous journey. The GSP-Cebu Council served as its last stop before it reached its final destination – accused Clavel A. Martinez’ personal cash box,” the Sandiganbayan said in its decision. – 

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