The Supreme Court has affirmed the resolution of the Office of the Ombudsman ordering the dismissal and perpetual disqualification from holding any public office of Surigao del Sur 1st Dist. Rep. Prospero Pichay.
This is in connection with the P780 million alleged unlawful investment of Local Water Utilities Administration in the Express Savings Bank Inc. during his term as chairman of the agency in 2009.
In a 40-page resolution, the SC’s First Division also upheld the October 18, 2016 and November 17, 2017 resolutions of the Sandiganbayan which upheld the finding of probable cause by the Ombudsman to indict Pichay and several others for violation of the Manual of Regulation for Banks (MORB) and three counts of violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices.
The high court denied Pichay’s consolidated petitions seeking to nullify his administrative and criminal liabilities over LWUA’s purchase of 445,377 ESBI shares, its deposit of P300 million, and advance payment for subscription in the anticipated increase in capital stock of ESBI in the amount of P400 million.
The SC junked Pichay’s argument that his right to due process was violated when the Ombudsman ordered his dismissal from the service, which was approved by the Court of Appeals in its October 23, 2013 decision and February 24, 2014 resolution.
In his appeal, the lawmaker asserted the complaint did not raise allegations pertaining to the requirement of presidential approval under Administrative Order 59 and the approval of the Monetary Board under the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas- MORB, thus, he could not be held administratively guilty for these acts.
“Poring over the documents made available before this Court, it cannot be said that Pichay was deprived of an opportunity to raise his defenses on the charges laid down against him. Contrary to the claims of Pichay, he was apprised of, and was given the opportunity to controvert, the allegation pertaining to the absence of prior approval of the President under A.O. No. 59 and the Monetary Board under the MORB,” the SC noted.
“Pichay cannot conveniently close his eyes on these allegations and nitpick which among the allegations he would choose to answer and thereafter cry violation of due process. He was given a copy of the position paper and had the time to browse all of its contents before submitting his own position paper. As such, he had the opportunity to controvert all of the allegations therein, and was given the opportunity to be heard,” it said.
The tribunal also said that based on the evidence, Pichay committed “flagrant disregard of the rules” in obtaining ESBI.
It pointed out that Pichay, as chairman of LWUA, allowed the purchase of ESBI despite the absence of approval by the MB as required by the banking laws and regulations.
“Ultimately, the absence of the requisite MB approval resulted in losses on the part of the government in the total amount of P780 million. This amount could have been used for other endeavors to help local water utilities,” the SC said.
The SC also did not give weight to Pichay’s claim that the term “perpetual disqualification for re-employment in the government service, unless otherwise provided in the decision” as an accessory to the penalty of dismissal from service means that the disqualification extends only to government positions that involve employment.
Pichay claimed the Ombudsman gravely abused its discretion when it imposed disqualification to hold any public office, which is an accessory penalty under the Revised Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service (RRACCS).
The High Tribunal, however, noted that there is nothing from the provisions of A.O. No. 07 that would prevent the application of the RRACCS.
On the contrary, the SC explained, A.O. 07 allows the application of the rules on civil service, which serves to implement the provisions of Executive Order No. 292, or the Administrative Code of 1987.
Rule III, Section 1 of A.O. 07 provides the grounds for administrative complaint while its Section 10 states that “the penalty of dismissal from the service shall carry with it that of cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, and the perpetual disqualification for re-employment in the government service, unless otherwise provided in the decision.”
Pichay is seeking reelection as Surigao del Sur 1st district representative.