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SEC commissioner urged to quit for ‘protecting’ Legacy

ABS-CBn News
March 9, 2009

by CARMELA FONBUENA, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on Monday asked Securities and Exchange Commissioner (SEC) Jesus Martinez Jr. to resign from his post after two high-ranking officers of the Legacy Group tagged him as a protector of Legacy owner Celso de los Angeles. He said this will be reflected in a formal resolution he will be filing.

“If I were Commissioner Martinez, I will tender my resignation this afternoon. Honor dictates that you must, at least, tender that and leave it to the Chief Executive of the land whether to accept it or not. Please submit a copy of your resignation, if you may, to this committee,” Enrile said during the hearing.

“It’s about time that we should be harsh to people in government. I do not think that anyone will disagree with what I say here. At the least, there is a semblance of unfairness on your part in the exercise of your powers as commissioner of the SEC. If it becomes necessary for the Senate to express its sense of disgust over your conduct as a public functionary, I myself will file the necessary resolution in the Senate,” Enrile added.

Martinez’s actions were “unacceptable,” added Senator Manuel Roxas II. “At the very least,…eyebrow raising.”

SEC chair Fe Barin said the commission will also investigate the allegations against Martinez.

But the significance of Martinez’s resignation–if he decides to follow Enrile’s call–will be almost meaningless since he is due to retire this month.

While Martinez denied any dealings with de los Angeles or the Legacy Group, he told reporters he may decide on Tuesday whether to quit.

“I’m going to weigh my options. I’m considering it because that is what the Senate feels is appropriate. At this time, I might consider that,” he told reporters after the hearing.

Bribes?

In a Senate hearing, Legacy Consolidated Plans Inc. (LCPI) chief executive officer Carolina Hiñola and chief finance officer Namnama Pasetes pinned down de los Angeles for siphoning company funds to his personal use.

It was Hiñola who detailed how Martinez—who is in charge of overseeing pre-need firms—benefited in at least two transactions with  the Legacy Group. Martinez claimed he only knew of Legacy Group’s problems in December 2008, when its rural banks and pre-need firms closed one by one.

“From my interactions with both Mr. de los Angeles and Commissioner Martinez, I can say with reasonable certainty that Commissioner Martinez is a close friend of Mr. de los Angeles, and he helped Legacy when the company had problems with renewing its dealership license in 2008 due to some deficiencies,” Hiñola said in an affidavit that she read before the senators.

Hiñola testified that he met with Martinez on Nov. 9, 2007 in Linden Suites in Ortigas Center to give him a check worth P1,475,000. The check was supposedly issued by the Rural Bank of San Juan—one of the rural banks under the Legacy Group—to pay for the Ford Expedition that the bank supposedly acquired from the commissioner.

“What I know is that while the [Ford] Expedition was booked in the account of Rural Bank of San Juan, it was Mr. de los Angeles who personally used the same,” Hiñola said.

Another transaction involved a house and lot in Parañaque City worth P3.2 million. Hiñola said the Legacy Group paid for the house but ownership was transferred to de los Angeles’s son, and later to Martinez’s son.

Hiñola said Martinez himself called him on the phone to follow up the payment of Legacy to a certain Michael Lirio, the supposed owner of the house and lot. Hiñola said she was told that the house was the commissioner’s gift to his son. “Legacy ended up buying the said house and lot from Mr. Lirio. Ownership of this house and lot was later transferred to Jesus III,” she said.

Martinez’s Son

Martinez denied that he is close to de los Angeles.

“I never dealt with them (Legacy Group) myself. It is painful for me that after having served for so long, it would seem that I lost my ethics somewhere along the way, [but] it’s not true that I abandoned my ethics. I have conducted myself as a good public officer all this time,” he told reporters after the hearing.

Martinez said the transactions that Hiñola mentioned were made not by him but by his son, Jesus III, who is close to de los Angeles’s son, Martin Nicholo. They are supposedly long-time friends. Martin and the wife of Jesus III are both commercial models.

He said he does not “dictate” on what his children does, adding that his children are simply making a living.

On the Ford Expedition sales transaction, Martinez said his son owns a company that engages in buying and selling of cars.

Regarding the house and lot in Parañaque, he said his son decided to buy the property of Martin after renting it for seven months.

“I did not participate in any of the transactions. I was not a patron in any of the companies for that matter,” Martinez said.

Congressman’s role

Parañaque Rep. Eduardo Zialcita was also dragged into the controversy.

Hiñola testified that he first met Commissioner Martinez on Feb. 14, 2006 in a Japanese restaurant in Makati Shangri-la. Martinez supposedly came with Zialcita.

Hiñola and Pasetes were sent by de los Angeles to represent him in their meeting with Martinez and Zialcita.

“During our lunch, Commissioner Martinez asked if we have any problems with the SEC that he could help us with, and at that time, I informed him that as far as I know, we had none. Commissioner Martinez was at that time accompanied by Congressman Ed Zialcita,” Hiñola said.

Pasetes testified that the Legacy Group issued at least 18 checks to Rep. Zialcita since 2006.

Martinez denied that there was such a meeting. He told reporters that Zialcita is his cousin.

“I don’t even understand how she could have met with me because we were in the middle of the anniversary of the SEC [on Feb.14, 2006]. The only meeting that she’s saying we actually met was the lunch where Mr. de los Angeles was not supposed to have come. And if he did not come, why should I meet with her?,” Martinez said.

Talking to reporters, de los Angeles said he remembers agreeing to donate to Zialcita’s charity projects like feeding programs and basketball courts. But de los Angeles claimed the donations would not reach the amounts in the checks that Hiñola and Pasetes claimed they issued to him.

“Everything was prepared by them. They controlled voucher preparation and check encashment,” he told reporters, referring to Hiñola and Pasetes.

as of 03/09/2009 8:59 PM

March 9, 2009 - Posted by | Philippine Newspapers/Web News | , , ,

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