THE Sandiganbayan on Friday entered a not-guilty plea for Bacolod City Mayor Monico Puentevella after he refused to enter any plea for graft charges.
After two postponed dates of arraignment, Puentevella showed up before the anti-graft court’s Fourth Division.
“Your honors, I refuse to enter plea,” he told the court, spurring the magistrates to enter a plea for him in accordance with legal procedure. The mayor and his lawyers immediately left the court room and refused any media interview.
Puentevella’s first arraignment was set on April 15, but was postponed due to his pending petition for a temporary restraining order at the Supreme Court. Last week, he was not also able to appear in court due to a spike in his blood pressure.
A co-accused, Jessie Garcia of Maryland Publishing Corp., was arraigned earlier and pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Last year, another accused, Victorino Tirol, a former regional director of the Department of Education, Culture and Sports, succumbed to a heart ailment.
The case stemmed from the alleged anomalous procurement of computers and software for public elementary and secondary schools in Bacolod City from 2001 to 2006.
The Office of the Ombudsman said the procurement of the computer packages from Maryland Publishing Corp. was done without a public bidding.
Former councilor Carlos Lopez filed the complaint, saying the publishing firm was not a supplier of computer units and they only delivered 50 computers instead of the 100 computers in the contract.
Puentevella and his co-respondents were indicted by the Ombudsman last year for the alleged misuse of his Priority Development Assistance Fund when he was congressman of Bacolod from 2002 to 2007 to purchase P26 million worth of information technology packages.
Not only were the IT packages believed to be overpriced, they were also found to be defective and unsuitable for school use.
The Ombudsman said Puentevella and the two other respondents “gave unwarranted benefits and advantage to Merryland … by awarding it a multi-million-peso contract for the purchase of Informational Technology packages without conduct of public bidding.”