Bacolod mayor faces graft charges for overpriced PCs

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THE Ombudsman said it is filing shortly graft charges against former Rep. and now Mayor Monico Puentevella of Bacolod and Department of Education Regional Director Victorino Tirol Jr. for the purchase of overpriced information technology (IT) equipment in 2002, 2004 and 2005.

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The two earlier refuted the findings of the Ombudsman regarding their alleged unilateral awarding of the IT contract to Merryland Publishing Corp. without public bidding despite the fact that the personal computers and IT peripherals were overpriced.

In her decision signed on January 7, 2014 Anna Isabel Aurel–lado, Assistant Special Prosecutor III of the Ombudsman’s office, said “the motion for reconsideration filed against Puente–vella, Tirol and Jessie Garcia, chairman of Merryland, are denied for lack of merit.”

The graft case stemmed from the purchase of the IT equipment from Merryland using the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel of then Bacolod lawmaker Puente–vella from Merryland by the DepEd without any public bidding and at prices disadvantageous to the government.

The IT packages for public elementary schools, each priced at P400,000, consisted of one computer, 50 compact discs, instructional materials and a one-day seminar workshop. The package for public secondary schools, each one also costing P400,000, consisted of two computers, 80 CDs, instructional materials and a one-day seminar.

The resolution to indict Puentevella was approved last October by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales citing a Commission on Audit (COA) report showing that at least P26 million was spent for the IT packages from 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2006 for 54 public elementary schools and 29 public secondary schools.

Aurellano said DepEd Region 6’s purchase of computer hardware from Merryland without public bidding violates Executive Order 40 and Republic Act 9184, which COA earlier observed in its audit on January 1 to December 31, 2005.

“Whether COA issued a notice of disallowance is irrelevant to the determination of criminal liability of respondents. Even more insignificant are the procurements made by other government agencies,” Aurellano said.

She stressed that the Ombudsman has full discretion to determine the filing of criminal cases based on the attendant facts and circumstances.

She said respondents acted with bad faith and manifest partiality when they circumvented the law on public bidding and directly awarded to Merryland the procurement contracts for the IT packages.

“Their concerted action gave Merryland unwarranted benefits and caused the government undue injury by depriving it of the safeguards that would ensure that it obtains the best possible deal,” she added.

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