Speedy bailout for Lapu Mayor Paz Radaza
Instead of waiting for an arrest warrant to be served, Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza flew to Manila last week to post bail of P140,000 in the Sandiganbayan.
She said she was shocked to learn that she was a respondent in a 2002 graft case involving misuse of P15 million in pork barrel funds intended for the Girl Scouts of the Philippines (GSP) Cebu City chapter where she served as treasurer.
“Since 2002 I have never received any communication or summons from the Ombudsman about the case. Nagtuo ko nga wala nako’y labot ana. (I thought I wasn’t part of that case)” Radaza told a news conference yesterday.
Her lawyer has filed a motion to return the case to the Ombudsman to conduct a preliminary investigation so that Radaza could give her side in the scam.
The graft case, first investigated in 2004 in the Ombudsman’s Visayas, focused on the role of former Cebu 4th district congresswoman Clavel Asas-Martinez, who was president of the GSP Cebu city chapter and other parties.
Graft charges were filed this month against Martinez and seven others before the Sandiganbayan for the alleged misuse of P15 million of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) intended for an anti-drug abuse campaign of the GSP in Cebu.
Clavel and her son, former Bogo mayor Celestino “Tining” Martinez III, filed bail of P140,000 each before a judge in Cebu City at the Qimonda I.T. Center about two weeks ago.
“The others went to the Manila court to post bail,” said Celestino in a phone interview yesterday. As president of the Federation of Barangay Councils in Cebu province, “Tining” sits in the Provincial Board (PB) as ex-officio member.
The Martinez family, which includes the patriarch Bogo Mayor Celestino Martinez Jr., are key supporters of President Aquino and his Liberal Party.
According to the Ombudsman’s Office which filed four criminal cases, “only P600,000 of the P15 million was given to the GSP – Cebu City while the rest went to Rep. Martinez.”
“…there is no denying that the respondents conspired with each other through evident bad faith and gross inexcusable neligence to defraud public funds,” said the press statement posted on the official website of the Ombudsman.
Also charged were former Bogo municipal treasurer Rhett Minguez, Bogo municipal accountant Cresencio Verdida, all of Bogo, Cebu, along with GSP Cebu City executive director Alejandrita Meca, Radaza as former treasurer, cashier-designate Julieta Quiño and bookeeper Rhodariza Kilantang.
In her press conference, Mayor Radaza said that papers were already signed by the GSP president, Martinez, when they reached her desk as treasurer of the Cebu City chapter.
She denied pocketing the money or being part of an attempt to defraud the government.
“Malooy ta sa organization nga wala’y labot,” she said, referring to the Girl Scouts. (Have pity on an organization that has no part in this fraud.)
Mayor Radazas’ consultant Jonji Gonzales said they were optimistic that the charges against Radaza would be eventually dismissed.
“The funds came from the PDAF of (Clavel) Martinez. The money was allegedly deposited in her personal funds. And the only role of Mayor Radaza was that she happened to be the treasurer of GSP at that time,” Gonzales explained.
He said the mayor’s Manila-based lawyers in the Poblador-Bautista-Reyes law firm have filed a motion to return the case to the Ombudsman for the conduct of a preliminary investigation so that Mayor Radaza has a chance to give her side.
The case involves the diversion of part of the PDAF which was deposited in the private bank account of Congresswoman Martinez between 2002 and 2003.
This month the Office of the Ombudsman filed four criminal complaints with the Sandiganbayan against the eight accused over the alleged misuse of P15 million in pork barrel funds in 2002.
It said the Provincial Board of Cebu on Nov. 19, 2001 passed a resolution calling the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts of the Philippines (GSP) — Cebu Council to include in their programs the enforcement of an anti-drug campaign to be funded by the 2002 PDAF allocation of Martinez, who was also the president of the GSP-CC from 2000 to 2003.
After six months or on May 13, 2002, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) released P15 million under Special Release Allotment Order No. ROCS-02-01767.
Investigation showed that the release of the funds did not follow the requirements under the law.
Reports by the GSP of Cebu City and the Commission on Audit showed that while there was no Memorandum of Agreement between the Bogo municipal government and the GSP, the pork barrel was released in two tranches of P7.5 million each upon written requst of Meca, the GSP executive director, to Mayor Martinez, the congresswoman’s son.
The GSP deposited the amounts immediately upon receipt and prepared the voucher for withdrawal of the same amount. It was payable to cash, which was received by Rep. Martinez.
Both transactions did not appear in the GSP’s monthly financial report. They were also not pre-audited by the internal auditor.
The Allotment and Obligation Slips of Bogo were not supported by programs of work or documents showing the related activities of the GSP.
The Ombudsman said that Mayor Martinez III, Minguez and Verdida had utterly disregarded the proper procedure in disbursing the PDAF” and that they had control over the funds and were accountable for them.
It said they should have demanded for the program of works or MOA showing the activities by the GSP for its anti-drug use campaign, to ensure that disbursements were legitimate.
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