Monico – Bing `word war’ recurs

Political rivals Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia, left, and former congressman and mayor Monico Puentevella.

The political pot in Bacolod City is boiling. And it is not even certain if there will be elections in 2022.

Former congressman and Bacolod City mayor Monico Puentevella shot back at Mayor Evelio Leonardia, his political nemesis, saying that the latter is apparently insulting the Department of Education and the justices of the Second Division of the Sandiganbayan, who cleared him last month of anti-graft and corruption complaint related to the purchase of the P26 million Information and Communication Technology packages for use of public schools.

“Almost 200 public elementary school principals, mayors and congressmen purchased similar ICT packages at the same price through DepEd. The three honorable justices (of the Sandigan) — Oscar Herrera, Michael Frederick Musngi, and Bayani Jacinto — would not have acquitted us if there was any overprice. Even the COA (Commission on Audit) on record said there was no overprice or disallowance at all. Not even a single peso,” Puentevella told Negros Now Daily in an email he sent the paper this week.

The former solon said he was compelled to write in reaction to Leonardia, whose side appeared on the paper twice. Puentevella dismissed Leonardia’s contentions, including the incumbent mayor’s insistence that each unit of the ICT package, purchased using the former’s Priority Development Assistance Fund, was overpriced and that he had a hand in their procurement.

The Sandigan justices, with the concurrence of Presiding Judge Amparo Cabotaje-Ting, acquitted Puentevella and co-accused Jessie Garcia 13 years after the complaint was filed against them in February 2007 by Leonardia’s lawyer, the late Allan Zamora, and taken over eventually by city legal counsel Joselito Bayatan and his deputy, Vicente Petierre.

The anti-graft court, in its Nov. 16 decision, pointed out that Puentevella cannot be held liable because he is not a member of the regional DepEd’s Bids and Awards Committee that facilitated the purchase of the ICT packages.

Puentevella laughed at Leonardia, pointing out that the mayor was running out of flimsy arguments as he tried to divert the issue by calling him disrespectful to the dead when he mentioned Zamora’s name and for allegedly falsifying documents.

“How can a statement of fact be considered disrespectful. Stating that Zamora filed the case against me upon the orders of Leonardia is a fact of the case. One does not have to be a lawyer to understand it. It’s clearly his way of digressing from the truth,” he said.

The former mayor continued: “Overprice is when a Mayor buys sardines at P32 when it actually sells only P16 (per can) in sari-sari stores, in disguise of helping the poor during this pandemic period. Overprice is when you intend to buy Vitamin C at P2,250 when it sells only for P350 in drugstore everywhere. Overprice is when you buy 10 computers at P250,000 each, costing P2.5 million from two suppliers from Manila and Bacolod yet the vouchers (are) signed by one and the same supplier.”

Puentevella said he sympathizes with the mayor for his lack of understanding how IT-based educational packages work.

He also accused Leonardia of hiding so long in his house for fear of COVID-19.

“Shape up, guy. (The) people of Bacolod are hungry, unemployed, sick or dying. Solve the floods, the traffic, and COVID resurgence before the Ombudsman elevates your gasoline case on four counts of graft and corruption to the Sandigan soon. Your turn, guy,” Puentevella wrote.

In the same letter, Puentevella advised Leonardia: “If it’s too hot in the kitchen get out. You ain’t got it, babe!”