Sandiganbayan

Sandiganbayan affirms graft conviction of ex-Cebu lawmaker over pork barrel

Rappler.com
Sandiganbayan affirms graft conviction of ex-Cebu lawmaker over pork barrel
The court affirms there was conspiracy to defraud the Girl Scouts of the Philippines-Cebu Council and the government of P24.4 million sourced from the pork barrel of former lawmaker Clavel Martinez

MANILA, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan 6th Division denied separate motions for reconsideration filed by former Cebu 4th District representative Clavel Martinez, former Lapu-Lapu City representative Paz Radaza, and five co-accused on their conviction for corruption charges stemming from fraudulent handling of pork barrel funds. 

Associate Justice Kevin Narce Vivero penned the 21-page resolution, affirming that the defendants were guilty of conspiracy to defraud the Girl Scouts of the Philippines (GSP)-Cebu Council and the government of P24.4 million sourced from Martinez’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations in 2002 and 2003.

Celestino Martinez, Martinez’s son and former mayor of Bogo, Cebu, was also convicted of three graft charges and three counts of malversation of public funds, along with former municipal treasurer Rhett Miguez, municipal accountant Cresencio Verdida, GSP-Cebu bookkeeper Rhodariza Kilantang, and cashier Julieta Quiño.

Meanwhile, Maria Cielo Martinez, Martinez’s daughter and GSP-Cebu treasurer, and Radaza, also former GSP-Cebu president, were pronounced guilty of one count each of graft and malversation.

They were sentenced to six years imprisonment for each count of graft and 8 to 10 years for malversation, and were also slapped with fines of P10 million, P7.1 million, and P7.3 million for the first, second, and third charges, respectively.

Defendants in the second and third malversation cases were also ordered to reimburse the government through the Bureau of the Treasury the sum of P7.1 million and P7.3 million equivalent to the pork barrel embezzled.

According to the trial records, the PDAF was supposed to fund GSP-Cebu’s anti-drug efforts, but instead went to Martinez’s personal bank account.

Prosecutors traced the money being coursed through the municipality of Bogo, which issued GSP-Cebu a check that Quiño did not deposit to GSP-Cebu’s account. Instead, she requested Land Bank of the Philippines (Landbank) to replace it with a manager’s check payable to “GSP-Cebu/Ma. Cielo Martinez.” This then went into GSP-Cebu’s account with the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI).

On October 27, 2003, Cielo Martinez withdrew P11.5 million from the GSP account and deposited P10 million to her mother’s BPI account.

The second and third pairs of graft and malversation charges involved transactions that took place in June and September 2002, covering two PDAF releases of P7.5 million each. These also went first to the municipality of Bogo which then issued Landbank checks in favor of GSP-Cebu. GSP-Cebu then issued withdrawal vouchers for the full amounts of P7.5 million, prepared by Kilantang and signed by Radaza and Clavel Martinez.

The defendants argued that conspiracy among them was not proven beyond reasonable doubt, and Radaza asserted that the prosecution needed to prove that she agreed to a criminal design from the very beginning. 

However, the court pointed out: “Conspiracy need not be proven by direct evidence of prior agreement to commit the crime. It may be deduced from the mode, method, and manner by which the offense was perpetrated, or inferred from acts of the accused themselves when such acts point to a joint purpose and design.”

Cielo Martinez and Radaza also challenged the pronouncement that both conspiracy and gross inexcusable negligence were present in the cases, saying one is inconsistent with the other. The Sandiganbayan responded, “Accused Radaza and accused Cielo (Martinez) are gravely mistaken. While conspiracy necessitates intent, conspiracy does not negate gross inexcusable negligence.”

The court added, “No substantial and compelling reason warrants the modification, much less the reversal, of the court’s peremptory conclusion.” – Rappler.com

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