Ex-mayor faces graft charges

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Former Bacolod City mayor Luzviminda Valdez will finally be arraigned on January 15 after the Sandiganbayan denied for lack of merit her motion seeking the dismissal of the graft and malversation of public funds charges against her.

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Valdez earlier argued that the cases should be dismissed as she invoked “selective prosecution” and “inordinate delay” it allegedly took the Office of the Ombudsman to file the charges.

But in a resolution dated December 9, the court’s Fifth Division ruled that these are not among the grounds enumerated in Rule 117 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure governing a Motion to Quash (to void charges) which Valdez filed, and hence cannot be considered by the court for the quashal of the charges.

The ruling also discussed that it is not for the court to interfere with the Ombudsman’s investigatory and prosecutorial powers.

“It is not for this Court to determine, therefore, why the other charges filed against the accused impleaded other officials as her co-accused or why a similar charge was dismissed. Such cases are not even pending before this Court. Insofar as the present charges are concerned, this Court has already found the existence of probable cause,” it said.

The court further said that while it cannot be denied that it took the anti-graft office eight years from submission of her counter-affidavit in 2006 before it issued its Resolution last March indicting her, “the long lull it took for the Office of the Ombudsman is not considered vexatious or oppressive.”

Last July, the Office of the Ombudsman filed graft and malversation charges against Valdez for allegedly falsifying cash slips, which she used for reimbursement claims with Bacolod City, which supposedly made an overpayment of P270,000 and which Valdez reportedly misappropriated for personal use.

In one case, she allegedly claimed that she paid a resort P123,715 for meals and accommodations for the arrival of then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when the genuine slip allegedly stated that she paid only P3,253.

She is also accused of falsifying a cash slip issued by the same resort where she claimed that she paid P19,747 in government officials’ meals, which she allegedly used to reimburse P19,350 from the city when she only paid P510 as reflected in the genuine cash slip issued by the same resort.

Valdez also allegedly falsified cash slips for medicine tied to a mobile health clinic program.

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