Bacolod mayor refuses to enter plea in graft case

Marchel P. Espina
Bacolod mayor refuses to enter plea in graft case
Mayor Monico Puentevella will 'explore all legal options should the 90-day preventive suspension be filed against him,' says his counsel

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – Bacolod Mayor Monico Puentevella was arraigned Friday morning, May 22, for graft charges on the alleged procurement of overpriced computers worth P25 million.

The mayor refused to enter a plea before the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division in Manila.

The case against the mayor stemmed from the purchase of alleged overpriced computers bought by the Department of Education from Puentevella’s Priority Development Assistance Fund when he was still a congressman of Bacolod.

Bacolod Councilor Carl Lopez, who attended the arraignment, said the mayor didn’t enter a plea upon the advice of his counsel, which prompted the court to enter a not guilty plea.

Lopez said that the court had scheduled the pre-trial conference on June 15. He added that the Office of the Special Prosecutor may file the 90-day preventive suspension on or before June 15.

He stressed that Puentevella had also filed a motion to travel, which is still subject to the decision of the court. “The mayor will be in Switzerland and in New York sometime in May and June,” Lopez added.

For his part, lawyer Ralph Sarmiento, counsel of Puentevella, explained that the mayor didn’t enter a plea “because we have a continuing objection on the arraignment.”

He said that the anti-graft court has yet to come up with a written resolution on their motion.

Sarmiento said they are ready to explore all legal options should the 90-day preventive suspension be filed against the mayor.

At the pre-trial conference, he said, both parties are expected to stipulate the facts and set the ground rules, “lay down the evidence on the table,” the lawyer added.

“I just want to say that Mayor Monico is very satisfied with the outcome of the hearing this morning. He is in high spirits the whole day as everything went on as anticipated. In fact, he calls it ‘one step backward, but two steps forward,'” Sarmiento said.

Puentevella was supposed to be arraigned May 14, but this was reset after the mayor suffered from high blood pressure and stress.

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