The Sandiganbayan’s Fourth Division has ordered the 90-day suspension of deputy speaker and Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr. in connection with the alleged anomalous bank acquisition deal made during his watch as head of the Local Water Utilities Administration.
“… it is affirmed that this Court, by putting the accused under suspension, is merely doing what is required of it by law,” the anti-graft court said in its five-page decision.
The leadership of the House of Representatives shall enforce the Sandiganbayan decision.
But Pichay also said that only Congress has the power to suspend its members, citing the separation of powers of Congress.
“Accused Pichay’s contention is without merit. In this case, the record show (ic) that accused Pichay is charged under three separate valid Informations with violations of Section 3 (e) of RA 3019 (anti-graft law). Significantly the suspension pendent lite of the said accused is mandated under Section 13 thereof,” the Sandiganbayan said.
Pichay earlier entered a not guilty plea at the Sandiganbayan on three counts of violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and one count of violation of the Manual of Regulation for Banks in relation to the New Central Bank Act at the anti-graft court’s Fourth Division.
The charges against Pichay stemmed from LWUA’s acquisition of ESBI worth P80 million.
The ESBI is a local thrift bank based in Laguna jointly owned by the Forum Pacific Inc. and Wellex Group Inc. of the family of Senator Sherwin Gatchalian.
Ombudsman investigators said the action of the LWUA Board of Trustees, led by Pichay, to pass a resolution on March 24, 2009 approving the acquisition of ESBI was illegal due to an absence of the requisite regulatory approvals from the Monetary Board of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the Department of Finance, and the Office of the President.
Pichay is the lone elected official facing prosecution in the case.
The anti-graft court earlier dismissed for lack of probable cause the same charges filed against Gatchalian and other members of his family last November.”‹