The Sandiganbayan Second Division has acquitted former Bacolod City Rep. Monico Puentevella and two others of their graft charge involving the reportedly anomalous use of the lawmaker’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) from 2002 to 2005.

Puentevella was accused of violating Section 3(e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act together with Department of Education (DepEd) Region 6 Director Victoriano B. Tirol Jr. for conspiring with Merryland Publishing Corp.  President Jessie D. Garcia on the procurement of Information Technology packages at P40,000 each for a total of P26 million.

According to prosecutors, this was a violation of Executive Order No. 40, Series of 2001, and RA 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.

Prosecutors said the company was endorsed by Puentevella without the conduct of public bidding, therefore depriving the government of the most advantageous offer for the items.

However, the anti-graft court said the prosecution failed to prove all of the elements of graft. During trial, the defense reasoned that direct contracting was resorted to because MPC is the exclusive distributor of the required IT packages.

“The procurement of the IT packages through direct contracting instead of public bidding having been done by DepEd Region 6, there is no basis to impute evident bad faith or manifest partiality against accused Puentevella and Tirol. Neither can they be accused of giving unwarranted benefit or advantage to Merryland Publishing Corp.,” the Sandiganbayan said in a 34-page decision.

The anti-graft court said Puentevella was not part of the entity that procured the IT packages nor was he a member of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) of DepEd Region 6. His only participation was limited to financing the procurement of the IT packages through his PDAF.

At the same time, it said, there was no clear showing that Tirol and Garcia conspired with Puentevella so that the IT packages may be purchased through direct contracting.

The decision was written by Second Division Chairperson Oscar Herrera Jr. and concurred in by Associate Justices Michael Frederick Musngi and Bayani Jacinto.

Source: Manila Bulletin (