• COA finds loopholes in Puentevella’s report

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    Second of Four Parts

    AS IF diverting public funds to his private account was not enough, former congressman (Lone District of Bacolod) and now Mayor Monico Puentevella even short¬changed his province of the promised facilities and services when it hosted the 23rd Southeast Asian Games in 2005.

    The Commission on Audit (COA), checking on the facilities that should have benefited from the P50.5 million advanced by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) for the SEA Games, found a bucket full of inconsistencies and irregularities in  the scale meriting the filing of plunder charges.

    The stadiums supposedly refurbished showed signs of immediate disrepair soon after the games were held and the services that should have benefited from the advances actually did not.

    No wonder then that even if the country garnered the highest number of medals (at 291) from the SEA Games it hosted, criticisms and accusations were aplenty, reaching even online sites, now permanently etched in the books.

    For example, when COA inspected the Paglaum Stadium, where the PSC advanced P17.162 million (but only P774,000 was supported by official receipts), it noted the “long span roofing, the track oval materials and toilets/comfort rooms were already destroyed/dilapidated; the painting works have faded; scoreboards, tarpaulin, billboard and streamer-ads installation were not found; repair of the media balcony area, construction of Bacolod SEA Games Organizing Committee (Basoc) office and sodding items could not be located.

    The P12 million supposedly spent for lighting facilities only yielded 22 pieces of lights that were smaller than the existing ones on each poles or a total of 88 pieces. Specifications could not be identified neither could the lights be tested.

    The 6.91 million supposedly spent on lighting of the Panaad Stadium only yielded 50 pieces of lighting, and (like Paglaum) they were smaller than the existing lights at the stadium’s frontal portion, the specifications could not be done and neither could the lights be tested.

    The COA could also not locate the P50,000 worth of dressing room in the Panaad Stadium during its inspection.

    The P1,500,434 supposedly used for the BASOC office facilities and beautification projects went to beautifying the Bacolod City cemetery (which is a clear diversion as this is not part of the project approved by PSC); the mural painting along Araneta Avenue in the cemetery already faded and additional cemetery walls have not been completed. No mural painting along Lopez Jaena was found and the fencing and 45 units of wooden flagpoles and flaglets could not be found.

    The P1.767 million supposedly spent for the opening and closing ceremonies had no official receipts for P1.68 million.

    The P1.215 million beach volleyball facilities showed an undetermined amount of white sand found placed along the back of the La Salle gym which was the venue of the event.

    Aside from not submitting receipts for the P618, 115 (of total P1.122 million) for weightlifting facilities, the COA also noted that the fabricated facilities could not be found during the inspection.

    The P368, 380 supposed to be used for the practice venues had no Ors and neither could COA locate the appliances (refs, water dispensers and ovens) for said event.

    In the plunder case filed with the Ombudsman by Ambassador Harry Angpin (former PSC Chairman) against Puentevella he said: “from the foregoing it is clear that respondent took advantage of his official position, connection or influence, acting by himself or in conspiracy with other persons deposited the P50.5 million in his personal account and then misappropriated, misused and malversed said amount to his benefit, thereby unjustly enriching himself at the expense and prejudice to PSC.”

    He added: “For his (Puente¬vella) failure to properly account for and support with necessary documents, the expenses allegedly incurred in the 23rd SEA Games in Bacolod City is clear proof that he mishandled, malversed the funds entrusted to him.”

    In justifying the plunder case he filed against Puentevella, Angpin cited the Sandiganbayan’s decision on the case of Joseph Ejercito Estrada with some elements being: “the offender is a public officer who amassed, accumulated or acquired ill gotten wealth through misappropriation, misuse and malversation of public funds.”

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