Anti-graft court affirms conviction of 2 ex-cebu lawmakers, 6 others

THE anti-graft court has denied the separate motions for reconsideration filed by eight officials, including a former Cebu congresswoman, her two children and a former Lapu-Lapu City congresswoman, to reverse their conviction for corruption charges over the alleged misuse of P25 million in pork barrel funds in 2002.

In a 21-page decision promulgated on Oct. 12, 2022, the Sandiganbayan’s Sixth Division affirmed that former Cebu representative Clavel Asas-Martinez, her son and Provincial Board ex-officio member Celestino “Tining” Martinez III, her daughter and Bogo City Vice Mayor Maria Cielo “Mayel” Martinez, former Lapu-Lapu City Lone District Rep. Paz Radaza and four other officials for malversation of public funds and for violating Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The four others found guilty were former Bogo municipal treasurer Rhett Minguez, former municipal accountant Cresencio Verdida, and former officials of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines (GSP) Cebu Council— ex-bookkeeper Rhodariza Kilantang and ex-cashier-designate Julieta Quiño.

As for accused former GSP executive director Alejandrita Meca, who remains at large, her records were ordered archived, for revival upon her arrest or surrender.

In their motion filed before the anti-graft court, Martinez and the other respondents, except for Meca, cited reversible errors, both on “procedural and substantive grounds.”

Inordinate delay

In his motion, Celestino raised the issue of inordinate delay, alleging that more than three years had lapsed from the time the complaints were filed until the Office of the Ombudsman filed the resolution finding probable cause against him and his fellow accused.

But the Sandiganbayan, in its reply, said the right of the accused to due process and to speedy disposition of the cases were never violated.

No conspiracy

The accused also claimed that conspiracy was not proven as was stated in the May 17, 2022 decision containing their conviction.

Radaza, in her motion, claimed that she should not be convicted for conspiracy as she was only involved in one act—the signing of the vouchers and checks that caused the release of funds from GSP-Cebu’s Landbank Banilad Branch account to Clavel.

But the Sandiganbayan said that 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, concerted action, and community of interest,” the Sandiganbayan said.

On Monday, Nov. 28, Celestino said he, his mother and sister are set to file an appeal before the Supreme Court to reverse their conviction.

“We have already foreseen this coming so we are set on filing our appeal to the SC,” Celestino said.

SunStar Cebu also tried to get Radaza’s statement, but calls and texts to her lawyer were not answered as of press time. (JKV, ANV)