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Gatchalians, Pichay barred from leaving

The Sandiganbayan on Wednesday issued a hold departure order (HDO) against five members of the Gatchalian family of Valenzuela, Davao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr. and 20 others indicted for the alleged anomalous sale of the Gatchalian-owned Express Savings Bank Inc. (Esbi) to the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) for P780 million in 2009.

Barred from leaving the country were William Gatchalian, his wife Dee Hua Gatchalian,  sons  Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, Kenneth Gatchalian and  Weslie Gatchalian, Pichay and 20 others. They were earlier indicted by the Sandiganbayan for graft, malversation, and violation of Republic Act No. 8791, also known as the General Banking Law of 2000.

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The Gatchalians own Wellex Group Inc. (WGI) and Forum Pacific Inc. (FPI),  major corporate stockholders of  Esbi, a Laguna-based thrift bank which was found to be insolvent.  Pichay was then chair of the LWUA.

Also indicted were WGI officials Elvira Ting and Yolanda de la Cruz; FPI executives Peter Salud, Geronimo Velasco Jr., Rogelio Garcia, Lamberto Mercado Jr., Evelyn de la Rosa, Arthur Ponsaran and Joaquin Obieta; Esbi officials George Chua, Gregorio Ipong, Generoso Tulagan, Wilfred Billena and Edita Bueno, and former LWUA officials Eduardo Bangayan, Aurelio Puentevella, Enrique Senen Montilla III, Wilfredo Feleo, and Daniel Landingin and Arnaldo Espinas.

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In cases filed last week,  the Office of the Ombudsman alleged that the Gatchalians made a windfall profit of P80 million when LWUA bought Esbi in 2009.

Reacting to  the Sandiganbayan’s issuance of a hold departure order, Sen. Gatchalian on Wednesday said it was “expected” as a matter of procedure, but was not an indicator of the strength of the case against him.

“The release of a hold departure order is purely a matter of course which is to be expected after the filing of an information before the Sandiganbayan. It is merely to ensure that the accused remain within the jurisdiction of the court during the duration of the proceedings,” said Gatchalian.

But the former three-term Valenzuela mayor said the release of an HDO did not indicate that the case was particularly strong.

“It is a purely procedural order which does not speak on the merits of the case. In many cases, the court will still allow the accused to leave the country for legitimate reasons if he files the proper motion,” he said.

The neophyte senator had earlier denied his involvement in any wrongdoing, saying he was not involved in the transaction and that he was a minor stockholder in the bank.

Plastics king William Gatchalian, the father of Sen. Gatchalian,  on Wednesday posted bail to avoid arrest on graft and malversation charges in connection with the case, along with his wife Dee Chua  and his other son Kenneth.

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They paid a cash bond of P90,000 each, along with five other individuals named in the set of cases filed by the Office of the Ombudsman in the Sandiganbayan, court staff said.

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TAGS: Davao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr., Dee Hua Gatchalian, Express Savings Bank Inc., Kenneth Gatchalian, Local Water Utilities Administration, Nation, news, Sandiganbayan, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, Weslie Gatchalian, William Gatchalian
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