JUST as one Provincial Board (PB) member resumed office last week after serving a two-month suspension penalty, another board member started serving his own 90-day preventive suspension.
PB member Horacio Franco resumed office on February 8 and attended his first PB session for the year last Monday.
On the other hand, PB member Celestino “Tining” Martinez III started serving his 90-day preventive session, ordered by the Sandiganbayan, also on Monday.
In a text message to Cebu Daily News, Martinez said that preventive suspension is standard procedure when a case is filed before the Sandiganbayan.
“It’s preventive suspension,” he said. “Standard procedure when a case is filed in the Sandiganbayan. It came together with the suspension served to (Lapu-Lapu City) Mayor (Paz) Radaza.”
Radaza started serving her 90-day preventive suspension last January 24, 2017 in connection with the same case for which Martinez is also serving his own preventive suspension, which involved pork barrel funds of Tining’s mother, Clavel Asas Martinez, earmarked for the Girl Scouts of the Philippines (GSP).
According to Vice Governor Agnes Magpale, presiding officer of the Provincial Board, her office received the memorandum from the Department of Interior and Local Government informing them about Martinez’s preventive suspension on Friday.
Magpale assured that even with Martinez’s suspension, the Provincial Board’s functions will not be affected as a quorum can still be obtained.
At present, Martinez chairs four different committees in the PB: Barangay Affairs and Rural Development, Human Rights and Labor, Provincial/Municipal Properties, and Budget and Appropriations.
Magpale said she lauded Martinez’s decision to serve his suspension without further qualms but pointed out that the subsequent suspension and dismissal meted against different elected officials over the last few weeks had been worrisome.
“We can still muster a quorum but medyo bothered baya ang mga local officials kay left and right ang suspension karon, paspas,” she said. “But it was very gentlemanly of the board member to say, ‘Sige, I will face it and I’ll start serving it by Monday.’”
The fifth division of the Sandiganbayan ordered Martinez’s preventive suspension on the ground that a valid information was filed against him, charging him of violations of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The charges against Martinez stemmed from the alleged misuse of P15 million in pork barrel funds intended for an anti-drug abuse program of the GSP. At the time the funds were released, Martinez was still mayor of Bogo City.
For his part, Martinez countered the initial motion to have him preventively suspended by contending that “any suspension for his acts committed while he was still the Mayor of Bogo, Cebu cannot be implemented now that he is a member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Cebu because those positions are not intertwined with each other/.”
In answering Martinez’s contentions, the Sandiganbayan said ,“It may be noted that the informations in these cases were valid as they satisfy the formal requirements for sufficiency,” the Sandiganbayan resolution read. “A preliminary investigation was conducted before the said informations were filed and the records do not show the proceedings that led to their filing are tainted with irregularity.”