Last of four parts
THE province of Bacolod comes to prominence anew as it hosts on January 20 to February 1, 2014 the Batang Pinoy national finals for children 15 and below, amid an ongoing plunder case against its incumbent Mayor Monico Puentevello for the questionable use of P50.5 million for the 23rd Southeast Asian Games (SEAGames) in 2005. Actually, the original schedule of the national finals of the Batang Pinoy was December but because of Super Typhoon Yolanda it was reset to 2014.
Puentevella, who just lost his bid for a seat in the Philippine Olympic Committee, may not have as much clout now as he had in 2005 when Bacolod served as one of the playing venues of the 23rd SEAGames, but as city mayor he can still approve or reject some projects that maybe undertaken in his province for the holding of the Batang Pinoy national finals. (Batang Pinoy is aimed at providing the youth an opportunity to develop their skills and establish good relationship with fellow athletes).
As is practiced in all local governments, he can also demand a cut in the revenues or budgets to be used in the holding of the national competition in his province. In short the Philippine Sports Commission will be held hostage somehow by Puentevella in its project funding.
As mayor of Bacolod, Puentevella is also facing graft charges from the Ombudsman for the alleged overpricing of information technology packages for public schools in 2002, 2004 and 2005 through his pork barrel funds during his term as lone representative of the province in Congress. Again he decried this as politically motivated similar to his accusation of Harry Angpin when the latter filed plunder case against him before the Ombudsman, using a comprehensive report of the Commission on Audit.
Early this month, reports said the Ombudsman found enough cause to file graft charges against Puentevella and two others for overpricing computers using the pork barrel funds.
(Puentevella served as congressman of his for three consecutive terms since 2001. He was elected mayor in 2013).
Still, as in showbiz, the show must go on and there is no stopping, this time, of the Batang Pinoy national finals from being held in Bacolod, the city of smiles.
Puentevella called “Nyuks” by his peers is a member of the Philippine Football Federation marketing and television committee and the current president of the Philippine Weightlifting Federation, enough to give him influence and clout over PSC and Department of Education’s decision-making in conducting the national finals.
The Batang Pinoy finals are going to be held at the Panaad Stadium, the main playing venue, which is part of the items claimed by Puentevella as among those that he sank the P50.5 million funds he received from the PSC for the Bacolod SeaGames Organizing Committee (Basoc, an NGO that does not exist in the books of the Securities and Exchange Commission and is thus not qualified to transact or receive government funds).
Puentevella’s son, Claudio “Kalaw” is now the lone representative of Bacolod, who can also add pressure to the PSC and DepEd in the conduct of the national finals of Batang Pinoy grassroots tilt in Bacolod.
Batang Pinoy, created under Executive Order (EO) 44 by then President Joseph Estrada (now Manila Mayor), was conceived as a “national competition among the youth to convert them into productive individuals—disciplined, socially integrated, value-laden and conscious of a healthy lifestyle.
The EO tasked the “PSC with providing the venue for such a friendly competition that is not only national in scope but will be a means of measuring athletic prowess.” PSC partners with the DepEd, Department of Interior and Local Government and the League of Provinces/Cities/Municipalities and Barangays in this endeavor.
The Philippine Olympic Committee (chaired by Jose Peping Cojuangco) and the National Sports Associations, both NGO and internationally recognized authorities in different sports, shall run and oversee the technical management of the event, the EO stated.
Assuming the Puentevellas are sincerely concerned about a successful national finals for the grassroots Batang Pinoy competition, pork funds that have just been declared unconstitutional and illegal by the Supreme Court, which also made permanent its restraining order on fund balances for 2013, can never be used to augment PSC’s funds for the purpose. This is just unfortunate.