Sandigan junks Monico’s plea to dismiss graft rap

Former Bacolod City representative Monico Puentevella.

MANILA – The Sandiganbayan junked the motion of Monico Puentevella to dismiss the graft charge filed against him in connection with an allegedly anomalous purchase of information technology (IT) packages when he was congressman of Bacolod City.

According to the Second Division of the anti-graft court, the evidence presented were prima facie sufficient for Puentevella’s conviction.

“The testimonies of various witnesses presented by the prosecution, as well as the admissions made and stipulations entered into by the parties, and the numerous documents submitted as evidence are prima facie sufficient for conviction, unless successfully rebutted by defense evidence,” read part of the court’s four-page resolution released last Friday.

In his motion to dismiss, Puentevella insisted that the evidence against him were insufficient to prove his guilt.

Puentevella and Victoriano Tirol Jr., then regional director of the Department of Education in Western Visayas, were charged by the Office of the Ombudsman on Sept. 30, 2013 for an IT education package deal in 2002.

The Ombudsman also charged Jessie Garcia, president and chairman of the board of Merryland Publishing Corp., with violation of Section 3(g) of Republic Act 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Puentevella, conspiring with the two other respondents, used his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) – also known as “pork barrel” – from 2002 to 2005 in procuring P26 million worth of IT packages without public bidding, the Ombudsman said.

In November 2013 the Supreme Court ruled that the PDAF was unconstitutional.

The high court nullified the laws that provided lawmakers lump-sum allocations to fund their chosen projects.

“All informal practices of similar import and effect, which the Court similarly deems to be acts of grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of discretion,” were also declared void, the Supreme Court said./PN

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