Pichay wants arrest warrant held
Davao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr. has asked the Sandiganbayan to hold off issuing a warrant for his arrest and to dismiss the graft and malversation charges against him for his role in the allegedly fraudulent purchase by the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) of P780 million in shares of an insolvent bank.
In his motion, the lawmaker asked the anti-graft tribunal’s Fourth Division to determine whether or not there was probable cause to indict him, arguing that the Office of the Ombudsman erred in charging him and 25 others, including Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian and four other members of his family.
He was chair of the LWUA in 2009 when the agency bought Express Savings Bank Inc. (Esbi), a Laguna-based thrift bank owned by the Gatchalians, in 2009 for the creation of LWUA’s own bank.
The Gatchalians, also accused in the case, are the executives and owners of Wellex Group (WGI) and Forum Pacific Inc. (FPI), which owned and operated Esbi at the time of the acquisition. The family members allegedly each made a windfall profit of P80 million at the expense of the government.
For the transaction, Pichay was charged with three counts of violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, three counts of malversation, and a violation of the General Banking Law of 2000, while the Gatchalians faced one count each for each charge.
Though most of his fellow respondents have posted bail, Pichay has not done so.
In his motion, Pichay argued that there was no element of bad faith in the LWUA purchase as there was “tacit approval” from then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He also noted that the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) “never stated nor intimated that the LWUA disregarded any applicable law or rule.”
“LWUA merely relied on good faith on BSP’s orders and suggestions which gave the impression that LWUA could continue with the Esbi transaction,” he said.
No injury to anyone
Pichay also said his actions as LWUA chair did not cause any undue injury to any party, including the government, and “no unwarranted benefit was given to anyone in this case.”
“It suffices to reiterate that all the deposits and the Esbi investment are in LWUA’s name. Evidently, there was no benefit, let alone an unwarranted one, extended to anybody,” he said.
The Ombudsman had charged Pichay and other LWUA officials of approving the acquisition of the Esbi shares in 2009 despite audit findings that the bank suffered consecutive net losses from 2005 to 2009.
The acquisition effectively became a financial rescue, giving the Gatchalians P80 million in the acquisition, the Ombudsman said. LWUA shares became “worthless” after the bank was placed under receivership in July 2011.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.