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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, April 15, 2013
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Monico’s plunder case


As the election campaign moves closer to decision day, I will spend space to remind the people of Bacolod of the danger that lurks in the horizon in the event they make a mistake in choosing the next mayor of the city.

The thrust of the campaign of Monico Puentevella in his second attempt to become mayor of Bacolod is to paint Vice Mayor Jude Thaddeus Sayson as corrupt and abusive. He accused Sayson of facing a case in the Ombudsman and then threw in the case of the suspension of the late Sangguniang Panlungsod Secretary Nilo Alejandrino.

By twisting the facts in the case of Alejandrino, Puentevella is trying to make Sayson look like a man without a heart and ruthless. By blowing up the Ombudsman case against the city officials and singling out Sayson, Puentevella wants people to believe Sayson is on the same footing as he is.

Nothing could be farther from the truth, but Puentevella is not a man known as a lover of truth and fairness. More so, he is not known for honesty in his propaganda in his ambition for power.

This Machiavellian tactic, however, works only for a brief time but in that short moment, some people, lacking in discernment, can be fooled. This approach in what should be an honest public debate and fair contest has made elections deplorable.

It is said by propagandists that to upturn the opponent, spin masters should try to put the rival on the defensive. The best defense is offense and this is the tactic of Puentevella.

His accuses Sayson of a case of plunder in the Ombudsman, but as I wrote earlier, there are differences in the case against Sayson and that against Puentevella. I wrote then that perhaps it is necessary to reopen the plunder case against Puentevella to remind our people of Bacolod and, most importantly, Puentevella not to play with stones since he lives in a glass house.

What is the plunder case against Puentevella?

When we elect people into office, it is necessary to find out how they performed or not performed during their term of office. Puentevella served for nine years in the House of Representatives. In this campaign, he is now promising what he ought to have done during those nine years. But let us set that aside for the moment and recall his plunder case.

The plunder case arose from his handling of millions of pesos of public funds intended for the Southeast Asian Games that was held for the first time in Bacolod. This game brought to Bacolod hundreds of athletes, both national and international so that the city had to be prepared, facilities-wise, for this historic moment.

This meant spending millions of pesos to upgrade our facilities, construct new ones and engage in multitudes of other activities to insure that our hosting will be adequate.

Since Puentevella was connected with the Philippine Sports Commission which handled the international sports competition he took an active part, in fact a leadership role in the games, so that the PSC entrusted to him the money intended for this event.

Everything looked well enough, but behind the scenes and within the shadows, public funds were secretly diverted into private bank accounts – his bank account. With the flurry of activities nobody was looking and nobody was the wiser. People and the PSC trusted Puentevella since he was one of their own commissioners, an appointee of the disgraced President Gloria Arroyo.

After the games, the Commission on Audit released devastating documents supposedly supporting the expenses. In some case, there was lack of evidence that the money was spent for its legal purpose.

I studied the COA report and went further on to inquire and the facts found in official documents showed that government funds were deposited in the bank account of Puentevella in the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation at Shopping Center.

Supporting documents also show spurious expenses and some money could not be accounted for, especially advertising incomes and ticket sales. There were no bidding for expenditures running into millions and one set of expenses also in millions were for work and purchases that never took place.

The series of columns I wrote was published in a book entitled “The Plunder Case against Monico O. Puentevella” which is among my most widely purchased, even by Bacoleños in foreign lands. Some sent copies to friends in other parts of the country.

What is the status of the case? That is a question for the Ombudsman but as of now, it lingers in that office. Has she heard President Aquino’s “matuwid na daan”? We will continue tomorrow.*

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