CEBU CITY—It seems that the small fry gets penalized first.
The Court of Appeals (CA) has ordered the one-year suspension of the accountant of Bogo City, Cebu, who helped in the alleged misuse of P15 million in pork barrel funds of then Cebu Rep. Clavel Martinez, a member of the ruling Liberal Party, in 2001.
The suspension came too late, however, since municipal accountant Crescencio Verdida is no longer with the Bogo City government.
According to Clavel’s son, former Bogo Mayor Celestino Martinez III, Verdida resigned before the May 13 elections to run for councilor of Bogo. He lost.
Clavel, Celestino III and sister Maricel are Verdida’s coaccused in the separate malversation and graft charges pending at the Sandiganbayan for the misuse of Clavel’s pork, or Priority Development Assistance Fund.
Also charged were former municipal treasurer and now councilor Rhett Minguez, bookkeeper Rhodariza Kilantang and Girl Scouts of the Philippines (GSP) Cebu Council cashier Julieta Quino.
The Sandiganbayan issued arrest warrants against the seven but later deferred the warrant’s enforcement pending resolution of a motion to dismiss filed by Clavel.
Clavel has been charged with pocketing a total of P26 million in pork using the GSP as conduit in 2002 to 2003 through the then Bogo municipal government where Celestino III was mayor.
Based on the September 2005 archive of Cebu Daily News, the Ombudsman report said funds were released on June 13, 2002 (P7.5 million), Sept. 18, 2002 (7.5 million) and Sept. 22, 2003 (P11.5 million).
A case of malversation and graft was filed against the seven for a Sept. 22, 2003 check, worth P11.5 million, which the Ombudsman said was deposited to the GSP’s bank account, but was later withdrawn by Ma. Cielo and deposited to Clavel’s personal account.
Verdida faces a separate case of dishonesty, grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interests of the service for the two checks of P7.5 million each.
The Ombudsman found Verdida guilty and ordered him fired. Verdida appealed the case to the CA which found his petition “partly meritorious.”
In a ruling on Aug. 30, the ninth division of the appeals court downgraded the case and penalty, and ruled Verdida guilty of simple misconduct and ordered him suspended for a year.
The ruling said it was made to appear that Clavel’s P15 million pork, coursed through Bogo municipality, was released to the GSP Cebu Council for an antidrug campaign when only 2 percent of the amount was donated and the bulk was withdrawn by Clavel from the GSP Cebu Council treasury.
The P15 million was released in two tranches through disbursement vouchers signed by Bogo officials, including Verdida who certified that the fund releases were supported by documents. Christine O. Avendaño in Manila with a report by Carmel Matus, Inquirer Visayas