Sandigan suspends Bacolod mayor

THE Sandiganbayan Fourth Division ordered the 90-day preventive suspension of Bacolod City Mayor Monico Puentevella, who is facing a graft case for the alleged overpriced purchase of computer packages when he was still a congressman.

The "overpriced" computer packages worth P26 million were bought for public schools in Bacolod City between 2001 and 2006, and the purchase was funded by Puentevella's Priority Development Assistance Fund.

The suspension order, promulgated September 28, was signed by Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Jose Hernandez and concurred by Associate Justices Alex Quiroz and Oscar Hererra.

Copies of the order were furnished to reporters Monday by Councilor Carlos Jose Lopez, a staunch critic of Puentevella.

In a text message, Puentevella said that he will give his statement on the matter next week.

The mayor’s lawyers, Rayfrando Diaz II and Ralph Sarmiento, said in separate statements that they have not received a copy of the said order.

“We have not received a copy of the supposed suspension order. We also had no way of verifying with the Sandiganbayan as it was already late this afternoon when we heard about it,” Sarmiento said Monday.

“But if it is true that a suspension order was indeed issued by the Sandiganbayan against Mayor Monico, then it is just the beginning of another legal battle that the mayor is ready to take on,” he added.

Sarmiento said the legal team of Puentevella “had already planned for this scenario three years ago as soon as the Office of the Ombudsman came up with an unfavorable resolution against the mayor.”

“There is still a long way to go because a suspension order, if one was indeed already issued, is not yet immediately final and executory. Mayor Monico can still file a motion for reconsideration, and even bring the matter to the Supreme Court should (this) be denied by the Sandiganbayan," he added.

The eight-page order stated: "The plaintiff's motion to suspend the accused pendente lite is granted. The accused Monico O. Puentevella is ordered preventively suspended from his present position as the Mayor of Bacolod, Province of Negros Occidental or from any other government position he may now or afterwards hold for a period of 90 days, effective immediately upon receipt and implementation of this resolution."

It added that the secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) is directed to implement the preventive suspension of the accused public officer for 90 days and to inform the Sandiganbayan of the action taken with regard to the suspension within five days from receipt of the resolution.

The DILG secretary is also directed to inform the Sandiganbayan of the actual date of implementation of the suspension, together with the expiry of the 90-day period, so that it shall be deemed automatically lifted at the end of its term.

In the meantime, Puentevella is directed to cease and desist from exercising the functions and privileges of his office for 90 days immediately upon receipt of the resolution, the order added. (Sun.Star Bacolod/Sunnex)

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