Sandigan ‘checkmates’ Pichay over questionable LWUA chess tourney
MANILA, Philippines — Surigao 1st District Rep. Prospero Pichay has been found guilty of graft after he approved a P1.5 million budget for a chess competition during his stint at the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA), which coincided with his term as National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) president.
According to the 31-page decision from Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division dated Friday, Pichay was found guilty of graft under Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and also for violating R.A. 6713 or the Code of Conduct of Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
This was over the issue involving Pichay, who was then LWUA acting chairperson of the Board of Trustees, and other LWUA officials Emmanuel Malicdem and Wilfredo Feleo.
As acting chair, Pichay was responsible for approving LWUA’s budget for 2010, wherein P1.5 million was allocated for the chess competition named 2nd Chairman Prospero Pichay Jr. Cup International Chess Championship — even if the government agency was implementing austerity measures to save funds.
Sandiganbayan said that Pichay tried to argue that he had no power to push for funding for such events as acting chair, but the anti-graft court did not buy his assertions — as it was proven that he was the proponent of the chess program.
“The records show that accused Pichay was the proponent in the LWUA of the sponsorship of chess tournaments. Impliedly, he admitted that he was aware of the budget line item for sports at the time when the LWUA-BOT deliberated on the 2011 Operating Budget, yet he did not object thereto,” the Fifth Division said.
“Accused Pichay downplayed the powers of his position by claiming his role was limited to formulation of policy directions which could be exercised only though the LWUA-BOT, as a collegial body. He further averred that he was not in the position to tell the Administrator what to do. His assertions, however, are belied by the Minutes of the meeting,” it added.
The Court further explained that Pichay also claimed that he would only vote in case of a tie between the Board, but Sandiganbayan noted that no such rule exists, and that the minutes of the meeting also showed that it was unanimously approved.
As early as 2018, the Court has insisted that Pichay, currently Surigao’s representative, had the burden to prove his innocence at it was satisfied over the prosecution’s evidence, and that it was sufficient to convict the lawmaker.
With the decision, Pichay is sentenced to jail time of six years and one day up to a maximum of eight years, while they are also perpetually disqualified from holding public office.
He is also ordered to pay a fine of P5,000 for being guilty for R.A. 6713, and to jointly reimburse the LWUA of its P1.5 million budget, plus an interest of six percent per year.
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