Clavel, PB member ‘Tining,’ Radaza convicted of graft

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EIGHT officials, including a former Cebu congresswoman, her two children and a former Lapu-Lapu City mayor, were found guilty by the anti-graft court over the alleged misuse of P25 million in pork barrel funds in 2002.

In an 86-page decision promulgated on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, the Sandiganbayan Sixth Division found guilty former Cebu representative Clavel Asas-Martinez (Cebu, fourth), her son and Provincial Board (PB) ex-officio member Celestino “Tining” Martinez III, her daughter and Bogo City Vice Mayor Maria Cielo “Mayel” Martinez, Lapu-Lapu City Lone District Rep. Paz Radaza and four other officials for malversation of public funds and for violating provisions of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

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

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

The anti-graft court ordered the eight officials to serve prison sentences of from six (not 10 as earlier reported) to 18 years.

They were also ordered to each pay millions of pesos to the state, and to suffer perpetual disqualification from holding public office and loss of all retirement benefits under the law.

The case stemmed from the alleged fund misappropriation of P25 million (not P15 million as earlier reported) worth of Clavel’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), which she allocated to the GSP Cebu Council when she was the organization’s president and her daughter Maria Cielo and Radaza were the organization’s treasurers. Maria Cielo was treasurer in 2003. Clavel served as congresswoman of Cebu’s fourth district from 1998 to 2007.

In 2002, Clavel appropriated P15 million to GSP-Cebu which was first released to the Municipality of Bogo, and later released to GSP-Cebu in two tranches of P7.5 million each.

The funds were intended for GSP’s anti-drug campaign and coursed through the then municipal government of Bogo of which Clavel’s son, Celestino III, was then mayor.

In 2003, Clavel appropriated another P10 million of her PDAF to GSP-Cebu for the same purpose, which was again coursed through Bogo. But the amount was returned to the Municipality in 2005.

Celestino III said lawyers for his family planned to appeal the Sandiganbayan’s decision.

“Decision isn’t final yet, and our lawyers will file a motion for reconsideration,” Celestino told SunStar Cebu on Thursday, May 19.

SunStar also reached out to Celestino III’s sister, Maria Cielo, but calls and text messages to her phone remained unanswered as of press time.

In a statement, Radaza’s lawyer, Anzen Dy, said, “Cong. Radaza will take all available legal remedies to set aside the Joint Decision against her.”

Radaza was charged as a private individual in her capacity as the then treasurer of GSP-Cebu. She was treasurer from 2000-2003.

In its 86-page decision, the Sandiganbayan said they found Clavel and her co-accused guilty of malversation for they acted with “evident bad faith” and conspired with one another to ensure that the funds that were supposed to be given to GSP would directly be transferred to Clavel’s bank accounts.

This as the anti-graft court found evidence to prove that Clavel sanctioned Bogo town officials led by her son to release some of her PDAF to GSP even though they were not supported with the required memorandum of agreement (MOA).

“By the foregoing discussion, it is clear that accused Celestino Martinez III, Verdida and Minguez went along with the criminal design of accused Clavel Martinez by lending a color of legitimacy to an irregular transfer of public funds from the LGU-Bogo to the GSP Cebu Council,” the decision said.

“More, the amount of the funds involved behooved them to observe utmost circumspection. Regrettably, the accused did not only fail to meet such required discretion and circumspection, the evidence clearly show that they have deliberately disregarded the existing rules on the proper disbursement of public funds in order to give aid to the unlawful cause of accused Clavel A. Martinez,” the decision added.

The anti-graft court added that it found evidence to show that officials of GSP-Cebu helped Clavel in ensuring that the PDAF allocation she gave to the organization ended up in her personal cash box.

The Sandiganbayan said the accused officers and employees of GSP gave Clavel a “paved smooth” way to withdraw the P15 million PDAF allocation she initially gave to the group as financial assistance.

They said it was Meca who initiated the transfer of the first of three tranches of Clavel’s PDAF in favor of GSP Cebu by writing a letter to Celestino III for the issuance of checks for P7.5 million each that were to be payable to the organization. Quiño, who served as technical assistant and cashier to GSP, issued proof of receipts of the PDAF.

But despite receiving the two checks worth P7.5 million each, Meca and Quiño didn’t inform the GSP Cebu Council Board of such substantial remittances in favor of the group, though they were required, as high ranking officials of the board, to render periodic reports and to prepare the daily cash collection reports at the end of the day.

As to Clavel’s daughter, Maria Cielo, the Sandiganbayan said they also found evidence that she conspired with her mother in securing the funds. The anti-graft court found that Maria Cielo, then treasurer of GSP Cebu, accompanied her mother to the Bank of the Philippine Islands branch in Cebu City to withdraw the third tranche (not two of the three tranches as earlier reported) of financial assistance that Clavel had donated to the organization.

When she took the witness stand to clarify her participation in the controversy, Maria Cielo failed to clarify her role before the court as she “seemed oblivious to, and unmindful of, everything that had happened” that allowed her mother to withdraw the funds from the GSP Cebu Council’s account and eventually transfer it to her personal account.

“From the foregoing manner by which she testified, it seems clear that indeed, accused Maria Cielo A. Martinez conspired with her mother accused Clavel A. Martinez. Even by the very limited admissions she made while in the witness stand, it is beyond a shadow of a doubt that she blindly followed the lead of her mother, and obeyed without question her every instruction,” the anti-graft court added.

As to Radaza’s role in the case, the Sandiganbayan admitted that the prosecution failed to establish that she conspired with Clavel and the other co-accused as she was not the one who solicited and had no participation in the solicitation of the funds involved in the cases; that she was not the one who received the funds from the municipal government of Bogo which were deposited to the operations bank account of GSP Cebu; that she did not receive any portion of the subject funds which all went to Clavel; and that she even ordered the creation of an Ad Hoc Committee to investigate the matter when she became president of the GSP Cebu Council.

But the anti-graft court added that Radaza can still be held liable as she signed two vouchers and two checks which enabled Clavel to illegally withdraw the P15 million from GSP Cebu’s bank account.

“Stated elsewise, had accused Radaza refused to sign the two vouchers and the two checks issued pursuant thereto, then accused Clavel Martinez would not have been able to withdraw and cart away the subject P15 million of her PDAF allocations for 2002,” it said. (JKV, ANV)

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