Arrest of Aquino allies for pork scam stoppedBy Ador Mayor, Carine Asutilla
CEBU CITY—A former member of the House of Representatives, whose family is allied with President Aquino, and her two adult children may heave a sigh of relief.
The Sandiganbayan has suspended the implementation of the arrest warrant against former Cebu Rep. Clavel Asas-Martinez, former Bogo Mayor Celestino Martinez III, Ma. Cielo Martinez and four others who are facing malversation and graft charges for the misuse of her pork barrel.
Interestingly, the antigraft court ordered on July 31 the arrest of Lanao del Norte Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo in connection with another malversation case. Dimaporo is not a political ally of Aquino.
In a resolution, also dated July 31, the antigraft court granted the request of Clavel to defer the implementation of the arrest warrants against the seven accused, pending resolution of a motion to dismiss the case.
The resolution was signed by Justices Teresita Diaz-Baldos, Napoleon Inoturan and Oscar Herrera Jr. of the Sandiganbayan’s Second Division.
Clavel was one of the 11 House prosecutors during the impeachment trial in 2001 of then President Joseph Estrada, now Manila mayor.
She and her husband, Bogo City Mayor Celestino Martinez Jr., are members of the ruling Liberal Party (LP).
Clavel, her two children and four others are facing charges of malversation of public funds and violation of Republic Act No. 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, in the Sandiganbayan.
The four others were former municipal treasurer and now Councilor Rhett Minguez, municipal accountant Cresencio Verdida, bookkeeper Rhodariza Kilantang and Girl Scouts of the Philippines (GSP) Cebu Council cashier Julieta Quino.
PDAF in personal account
The graft case stemmed from allegations that P11.5 million in Clavel’s Priority Development Assistant Fund (PDAF) that was intended for the GSP’s antidrug campaign was deposited in her personal account in 2003.
The Office of the Ombudsman indicted the seven and filed charges against them in the Sandiganbayan.
A bail of P40,000 was recommended for the graft case but malversation is a nonbailable offense.
Clavel has asked the Sandiganbayan to dismiss the charges, saying there was no sufficient basis to implead her in the case.
She said the allegation of conspiracy among the accused was clearly baseless and did not have a leg to stand on because there was no irregularity and no law was violated.
The National Bureau of Investigation here received a copy of the arrest warrants issued by the Sandiganbayan against Clavel, Celestino III and Minguez.
Lawyer Rennan Augustus Oliva, an NBI supervising agent, said the arrest warrants for the four other accused could be with the local police.
Nowhere to be found
On Wednesday, NBI agents went to the residences of the Martinez family in Barangay (village) Talamban, Cebu City, and in Bogo City to serve the warrants but they could not be found.
In the afternoon, Clavel’s husband, Celestino Jr., showed a copy of the Sandiganbayan resolution that suspended the implementation of the arrest warrants.
“We feel that they (accused) are innocent of the charges. I won’t elaborate about the merits of the cases since they are already in court. I don’t want to jeopardize the proceedings,” he said.
In 2011, the Office of the Ombudsman recommended the filing of charges against the seven accused in the Sandiganbayan for allegedly conspiring to misuse P10 million intended for the GSP so the money could be deposited in the personal account of the former lawmaker.
The Ombudsman investigation showed that in September 2003, P11.5 million of Clavel’s PDAF was released through a check with the GSP as payee.
Quino later applied for a manager’s check in the same amount, with the payee listed as GSP or Ma. Cielo, who was GSP Cebu Council treasurer. Clavel was then GSP Cebu Council president.
The antigraft office said P11.5 million was deposited in GSP’s BPI account, but the money was withdrawn by Ma. Cielo that same month and deposited in Clavel’s BPI account.
The Ombudsman said that P1.5 million of the amount was erroneously released as part of Clavel’s pork barrel when it was actually for the Bayan Muna party-list group.
The GSP eventually returned the P1.5 million to the Bogo City government, which was still a municipality when the alleged offense took place.
Bogo City remitted the P1.5 million to the proper government office. The remaining P10 million, on the other hand, was unaccounted for.
In 2005, the accused returned P10 million to the government.
But the Ombudsman said the decision of the accused to return the P10 million did not discount the fact that public money was embezzled and appropriated for personal use.