EXPLAINER: Ruling on P25M pork barrel mess vs Martinezes, Radaza, 5 others not yet final. Not actual 83 years in jail for ex-congresswoman, son. 'Malooy ta sa Girl Scouts.' Only one reaped fruits of crime, says Sandiganbayan.

·5 min read

[1] WHO WERE FOUND GUILTY. The Sandiganbayan announced Thursday, May 19, the decision that it promulgated last February 28 regarding the alleged misspending of P25 million pork barrel allotted in 2002 to the Cebu Council of Girl Scouts of the Philippines.

In the six consolidated cases, (a) former fourth district congresswoman Clavel Asas-Martinez, (b) her son former Bogo mayor and Provincial Board member Celestino "Tining" Martinez III, (c) her daughter and ex-chief of staff Maria Cielo Asas Martinez, and (d) outgoing Lapu-Lapu City congresswoman Paz Radaza were convicted of corruption and malversation of public funds by the Sandiganbayan and meted multiple jail terms.

Also found guilty, as principals in a conspiracy, were Rhett Minguez, Bogo treasurer; Crescencio Verdida, municipal accountant of the town; Alejandrita Mecca, GSP-Cebu executive director; and its cashier Julita Quino and bookkeeper Rhodariza Kilantang. They held the positions when the crime was committed. Maria Cielo Martinez as also treasurer of GSP-Cebu Council; so was Radaza, who later became its president.

Two bits of comfort to the accused, the more prominent of whom -- such as the Martinezes and Radaza -- preempted arrest by promptly posting bail:

-- NOT YET EXECUTORY. The joint decision of the Sandiganbayan -- promulgated last February 8 but released only Thursday, May 19 -- is not yet final. The accused may file a motion for reconsideration of the conviction and, if rejected, appeal to the Supreme Court. "Tining" Martinez told media his lawyers would seek that relief. Radaza may ask for a preliminary investigation, which she claimed she didn't get.

The charges were filed in 2012 and 2014 over the pork barrel (or PDAF, Priority Development Fund) released in 2002 for Girl Scout of the Philippines-Cebu. Given the courts' pace, it could take five to 10 years more for the decision to become "final and executory."

-- NOT 83 YEARS. Philstar headlined its May 20 story with "lawmaker, mayor get(ting) 83 years" each) but the accused may actually serve much less jail time under the laws on indeterminate sentence and good conduct. Why the "83" total each for mother and son? Eighteen to 30 years in prison for three counts of corruption and 28 to 53 years for three counts of malversation.

[2] HOW THE MONEY FLOWED. Prosecution witnesses before the Sandiganbayan traced the flow of money. A common thread among the six cases was that the mother used the local government unit Bogo, where her son was the mayor, as "conduit" for the P25 million allocation, mainly to GSP-Cebu, where she was president and her daughter and chief of staff in Congress was treasurer.

Example of one "incident": GSP-Cebu received Bogo Land Bank check for P11.5 million payable to GSP Council treasurer. Check was returned to LBP by Cong Clavel with two other GSP officers and converted into a manager's check payable to "GSP Cebu or Maria Cielo A. Martinez." Later, the check was deposited under the GSP Cebu Council Trust Fund. Days after, the cash was withdrawn from the account and "deposited and transferred to the personal account" of Cong Clavel at BPI Pasay.

From DBM to LGU Bogo to GSP Cebu, then withdrawn, purportedly for the Girl Scouts' anti-drug campaign but allegedly landed in a personal bank account.

[3] CLAVEL'S ACT, IN COURT'S VIEW. "Undisputed facts," the 86-page decision said, "clearly demonstrate how Clavel A. Martinez controlled the whole 'enterprise.'"

"She caused the rest of the accused... to act in accordance with her bidding which enabled her to withdraw with ease and without question her PDAF allocations totaling P25 million." "From her unilateral act, she used Bogo as a mere conduit," with GSP Cebu as ultimate beneficiary, where "she was able to move the said funds and ultimately withdraw the same without question." The "ultimate destination," the Sandiganbayan said, was "her own private ends."

In what sounded as a stinging rebuke, the ruling said the congresswoman acted as if the P25 million "were her own -- to move, transfer and withdraw as she pleased."

[4] CO-CONSPIRATORS' DIDN'T 'REAP FRUIT.' The Sandiganbayan Sixth Division -- with Associate Justice Kevin Narce Vivero as "ponente" and AJ Sarah Jane Fernandez, chairperson, and AJ Karl Miranda concurring -- acknowledged that the evidence showed that "it was only accused Clavel A. Martinez" who "reaped the fruits of what they sow as no amount was shown to have been shared or given to any of the other accused."

Why punish them? The co-accused were "all shown to have conspired with one another and are therefore liable as principals." The ruling said the prosecution established beyond reasonable doubt that "by their individual and collective acts, ALL the accused " conspired and extended aid to accused Clavel Martinez "in the execution of all acts, necessary and indispensable" for the commission of the crime.

[5] PERPETUAL DIS-Q, OTHER PENALTIES. Clavel, Tining, Verdida and Kilantang were ordered to pay a fine of P24.4 million each and jointly reimburse P14.4 million to the government. Former officials who were convicted also were deemed to have forfeited retirement benefits and banned perpetually from holding public office.

Perpetual disqualification is bad for politicians. Two of the accused ran in the 2022 elections: Tining Martinez, for congressman and Radaza for Lapu-Lapu City mayor. Both lost.

[6] 'MALOOY TA': RADAZA. Denying that she pocketed money from the pork barrel allocation for GSP-Cebu Council, Cong Radaza pleaded, "Have pity on an organization that has no part in this fraud." She just happened to be the treasurer at the time, said Jonji Gonzales, Radaza's publicist. Radaza through her Manila lawyers will seek to send back the case to the Ombudsman for a preliminary investigation as she, they allege, was not called to the case.

The ruling earlier noted that Clavel Martinez's co-accused didn't profit personally from the "fruits" of the crime, noting as well that GSP-Cebu was merely used as "conduit" for the flow of the funds .

[7] TIMING OF ANNOUNCEMENT. The February 28 decision was not posted on the Sandiganbayan website until nine days after the elections. Had the anti-graft court done otherwise, the accused, two of whom ran for public office, would've complained of "bad timing."

Who'd complain over the delay? Their political rivals would've howled but they are not griping -- because they won.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting