Aquino allies in pork case deny pulling LP stringsBy Carine Asutilla
CEBU CITY—Members of a political clan in Cebu allied with President Benigno Aquino have denied they used their association with the President to stop the arrest of one of them for graft involving pork barrel funds.
Former Rep. Clavel Asas-Martinez said she did not get any help from Mr. Aquino or from the ruling Liberal Party (LP) to have the arrest warrant issued by the Sandiganbayan against her, her two children and four others suspended.
Martinez, her children and four others are facing a graft case for the misuse of pork barrel funds.
“There is no truth in the allegation that P-Noy or the Liberal Party had something to do with the issuance of the suspension order of the Sandiganbayan,” Clavel said.
The Sandiganbayan second division suspended the implementation of the arrest warrant it had issued against Clavel, her two children—former Bogo Mayor Celestino III and Ma. Cielo Martinez—and four others pending the resolution of a motion that the Clavel camp filed seeking to dismiss the graft case against them.
The four coaccused of Clavel are former municipal treasurer and now Councilor Rhett Minguez, municipal accountant Cresencio Verdida, bookkeeper Rhodariza Kilantang and Girls’ Scout of the Philippines (GSP) Cebu Council cashier Julieta Quino.
The graft case stemmed from allegations that P11.5 million in Clavel’s pork barrel funds, or the Priority Development Assistant Fund, that was intended for the GSP’s antidrug campaign was deposited to her personal account in 2003.
A bail of P40,000 was recommended for the graft case, but the case for malversation of public funds is nonbailable.
Clavel brushed aside insinuations that her links with the LP and Mr. Aquino may have hastened the suspension of the warrant for her arrest.
“If the Sandiganbayan did not issue the suspension of the arrest order, it would be illegal,” she said.
Inocencio de la Cerna, Clavel’s lawyer, said that while the Martinezes are allies of Mr. Aquino, the clan never used their political connections for anything related to the graft case.
Clavel said linking the LP to the suspension of the arrest warrant was the work of their political enemies.
De la Cerna said the suspension of the arrest warrant was due to the “hard work” of lawyers in Manila, not because of the Martinezes’ connection to the administration party.