Bacolod City Administrator Rolando Villamor yesterday said he doubts the authenticity, the veracity and genuineness of the Ombudsman resolution indicting former Congressman and now Mayor Monico Puentevella, et al, on the complaint involving the purchase and distribution of 97 IT packages that cost P400,000 each.
The Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the filing of information before the Sandiganbayan against Puentevella, Victorino Tirol of the Department of Education, and supplier Jessie Garcia after finding probable cause to indict them for acting in violation of Republic Act 3019, or the Anti Graft and Corrupt Practice Act.
The resolution, penned by Assistant Special Prosecutor Anna Isabel Aurellano, and approved by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales on October 2, 2013, said all the elements constituting a violation of RA 3019, are present in the case against them.
These are: Puentevella and Tirol were public officers and that Garcia was in conspiracy with them;
That Puentevella and Tirol gave unwarranted benefits to the company named Merryland Publishing, which is headed by Garcia, and caused undue injury to the government;
And that respondents acted with evident bad faith and manifest partiality when they violated the requirements of the law on public bidding.
Villamor, however, claimed that they have not yet received an official copy.
Puentevella said he was surprised by reports that the Ombudsman approved the filing of information against them.
He said they can make a petition before the Supreme Court and question the decision of the Ombudsman.
The case against Puentevella et al, stemmed from the purchase of 97 IT Packages from Merryland Publishing Corporation at P400,000 each, without the conduct of public bidding, and which were found to be overpriced, defective and non-functional. Also, some of the school beneficiaries allegedly did not receive them.
The complaint was initially filed by the late Bacolod City Legal Officer Allan Zamora, Vicente Petierre, and former CLO Joselito Bayatan, who took over after the death of Zamora and represented the city at the hearings held at the office of the Ombudsman in Cebu City.
The Commission on Audit, in a letter to Tirol with respect to the procurement of the IT package in 2002, stated that the “price per package appears to be exorbitant.” It also made an observation in its 2006 management letter to Tirol that the IT packages costing P400,000 is “highly overpriced relative to its contents.”
The Ombudsman said the government, therefore, suffered undue injury when it was deprived of the opportunity to get the most advantageous offer through a competitive public bidding for the IT packages' hardware component, and ended up purchasing overpriced IT packages.
Villamor said scrutiny of the documents revealed some questionable features as it only had two signatories. Based on his experience, he said, decisions from the Ombudsman have either four or more signatures.
“There are signatories from the special investigator, recommending approval and many more but the document only show one recommending person and then the approval,” Villamor said.
He also noted that it took only two days for the Ombudsman (Manila) to approve the recommendations (of the Ombudsman in the Visayas).
Villamor said this is why Puentevella is not making an official comment on the matter. But he also said their camp can always make an appeal before the Ombudsman, he said.
Puentevella, however, has two other major cases pending before the Office of the Ombudsman, one of which is for plunder, involving the P50 million funds for the Southeast Asian Games that he had deposited in his personal account at the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation, or RCBC, and the other one in connection with the Fertilizer Fund scam.
Puentevella claimed he was very much surprised and was the last person to know about the resolution of the Ombudsman.
He said he was very busy entertaining visitors, as well as the activities of the MassKara festival. He said he will meet with his lawyers headed by Villamor, probably after the MassKara Festival.
Meanwhile, Puentevella expressed confidence that the Sangguniang Panlungsod will approve his proposed annual budget for 2014, despite the fact that he has no control over the majority of its members.
Puentevella said he is scheduled to meet with the members of the SP, led by Vice Mayor Greg Gasataya, to discuss his proposed budget. He sees no problem with the members of the SP, he said, adding that the city council under the Vice Mayor is very cooperative with his administration.
The Mayor said next year's proposed budget is higher by little over P30 million compared to this year which was passed by his predecessor.
He said he was assured by the City Treasurer that there are available funds for the proposed 2014 budget contrary to what he had been claiming before.
There are no major changes in the allocation of funds covering social services, scholarships, waste management, medical needs and health needs, traffic and police supplementary budget, he added.*CGS