The Sandiganbayan acquitted former Bacolod congressman and mayor, Monico Puentevella, and his co-accused Monday, November 26, of the charge of violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act in connection with the purchase of P26 million in information technology packages for public schools.
“Praise the Lord. After 13 years, justice and the truth prevail,” Puentevella said today, November 17.
The Sandiganbayan, in its 34-page decision, said the prosecution failed to prove the guilt of Puentevella and Jessie Garcia, the owner of the firm that supplied the information technology packages, beyond a reasonable doubt.
The court also absolved Puentevella and Garcia of any civil liability and ordered the release of the amount they deposited for their provisional liberty.
The hold departure against them was also lifted and set aside.
Information filed against them on Sept. 30, 2013, alleged that from 2002 to 2006 Puenetevella as then congressman of Bacolod and Education Regional Director Victoriano Tirol, conspired with Garcia, president and chairman of the board of Merryland Publishing Corp. (MPC), for the purchase of IT Packages worth P26 million without the conduct of a public bidding.
The IT packages were purchased with the Priority Development Assistance Fund of Puentevella, it said.
Tirol passed away on March 21, 2014, so his criminal and civil liabilities were extinguished, the decision said.
Puentevella told the Sandiganbayan that it was the DepEd that had the authority to conduct the bidding of the project and that he had no participation whatsoever in the process or procurement of the IT packages.
His participation was merely to distribute the computer packages to the schools, and that the case against him was just political harassment.
The Sandiganbayan, in its decision promulgated Monday, November 17, said the court finds that the evidence adduced is insufficient to prove that the three accused conspired with each other in the procurement of the IT packages without a public bidding that caused undue injury to the government.
It was the DepEd Bids and Awards Committee that resorted to direct contracting in the procurement of the IT Packages from MPC, the decision said.
The justification given was that MPC is the exclusive distributor of the IT packages to be procured on the basis of the specifications in the purchase request, it added.
“Accused Puentevella was not part of the entity that procured the IT packages by way of direct contracting…His participation was limited to financing the procurement of the IT packages through his PDAF,” the decision said.
It also said there was no clear showing that Tirol and Garcia conspired with Puentevella for the procurement of the IT packages.
The decision of the Sandiganbayan Second Division was penned by Associate Justice Oscar Herrera Jr. and concurred by Associate Justice Michael Frederick Musngi and Bayani Jacinto.
The case was filed against him and his co-accused 13 years ago by the late Allan Zamora, who was the city legal officer of Bacolod under Mayor Evelio Leonardia, Puentevella said.
It was filed by those “obsessed with destroying my integrity and family name and using this case to destroy and harass me in the past elections, but I’m thankful to everyone who supported and beloved in me all these years,” Puentevella added.*