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No Swiss trip for mayor facing graft

Sandiganbayan rejects Puentevella plea to visit Zurich for Fifa meet
By: - Correspondent / @carlagomezINQ
/ 12:30 AM May 29, 2015
Bacolod Mayor Monico Puentevella

Bacolod Mayor Monico Puentevella

BACOLOD CITY—A division of the antigraft court Sandiganbayan on Wednesday rejected anew a bid by Bacolod Mayor Monico Puentevella to travel abroad to attend a football congress in one of the world’s most expensive places—Switzerland.

The court didn’t find any merit to grant Puentevella’s motion to reconsider its earlier decision rejecting his request to travel abroad.

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The mayor is facing graft charges for the alleged overprice in the purchase of computers worth P26 million, which was funded by his pork barrel funds when he was congressman of Bacolod.

As a result, Puentevella has been barred from leaving the country.

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Abused ‘pork’

He and two others are accused of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for the alleged irregular purchase of IT packages for public elementary and secondary schools in the city in 2002, 2004 and 2005, using the then congressman’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

Also charged were Victorino Tirol, former director of the Department of Education for Western Visayas, and Jessie Garcia, chair of Merryland Publishing, the company that supplied the computers.

On May 18, Puentevella filed a motion asking the Sandiganbayan to allow him to go to Zurich to attend the 65th Fédération Internationale de Football Association (Fifa) Congress.

Approval claim

On May 22, the Sandiganbayan turned down the request because of the absence of an order from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) allowing the mayor to leave the country.

Puentevella filed the motion for reconsideration through his lawyer, Redemptor Peig, claiming that the DILG had already approved his request to travel.

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Fit to travel

Puentevella said he was issued a medical certificate by Dr. Anna Maria Laarni Pornan that he was physically fit to fly to Switzerland.

He added that his attendance at the 65th Fifa congress was necessary for his reappointment to Fifa’s marketing and TV committee, ensuring a Philippine representative in Fifa.

On May 27, the Sandiganbayan turned down the motion for reconsideration.

Instead, it pointed to the cancellation of Puentevella’s arraignment on May 14 when the mayor was confined at Adventist Hospital in this city.

Dr. Jovy Vergara, assistant city health officer, issued a medical certificate stating that the mayor was “suffering from stress-related hypertension stage” and needed continued medication and rest for at least 10 days.

The arraignment was reset for May 22 during which the mayor refused to enter a plea. The Sandiganbayan entered a “not guilty” plea on his behalf.

‘Incongruous’

“Under the circumstances, it would be incongruous for Puentevella to undertake a long trip abroad for a very extended period of time (almost three weeks) in the absence of a doctor’s clearance or certification, that he is, in fact, already fit to do so,” the Sandiganbayan ruled.

It said Puentevella presented a medical certificate issued by Pornan, city health medical officer III, saying he was physically fit to travel to Switzerland.

“Such [a] certification is not acceptable to the court, considering that there is no showing that Pornan was the physician who treated him when he was allegedly confined at the Adventist Hospital, and who, this court would like to think, would be in a better and more informed position to pass judgment on the fitness of the mayor to travel abroad,” it said.

The resolution denying his request to travel was approved by Associate Justices Jose Hernandez, Oscar Herrera Jr. and Samuel Martires.

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