Rep. Gatchalian asks court nod to travel to China with Duterte
Valenzuela City Rep. Weslie Gatchalian, brother of Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, has asked the Sandiganbayan for leave to travel to China with the Philippine delegation headed by President Rodrigo Duterte, even as he faces charges of graft, malversation and violations of bank regulations before the court.
In his motion to travel filed before the anti-graft court Fourth Division, Gatchalian asked the court for permission to travel as part of the country’s delegate to the People’s Republic of China for a trade mission of the Base Conversion Development Authority from Oct. 18 to 22.
Gatchalian through his lawyers said he would accompany the President and would advise him in discussions with the Chinese.
Gatchalian added that he was endorsed to join the delegation by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.
“As part of the President’s entourage, Cong. Gatchalian will assist and advise the President during his discussions with Chinese delegates on matters of economic, political and trade relations,” he said in his motion.
Gatchalian added that he would join the delegation in his capacity as chairperson of the House of Representatives trade and industry committee.
He begged the indulgence of the court to inform it of the itinerary once Malacañang releases complete details of the official trip.
He said he would be willing to post a travel bond and comply with other requirements for the travel.
“From the foregoing, Cong. Gatchalian humbly beseeches this Honorable Court to allow him to travel to the People’s Republic of China from 18 to 22 October 2016,” his motion read.
Rep. Gatchalian is a co-accused in the cases for graft, malversation and violation of bank manual involving members of his family for the allegedly anomalous buyout of the family’s insolvent bank by the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA).
Senator Gatchalian, Rep. Gatchalian, and their parents, so-called “Plastics King” business magnate William Gatchalian and Dee Hu Gatchalian, were each accused of one count of violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, one count of Malversation of Public Funds as defined under Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code, and one count of violation of the Manual of Regulation for Banks.
They were charged as executives of Wellex Group Inc., which co-owns the insolvent bank Express Savings Bank Inc. (ESBI).
Meanwhile, then LWUA chair now Surigao Del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr. was charged with three counts of graft, three counts of malversation, one count of violation of MORB and one count of violation of Republic Act 8791 or General Banking Law of 2000, for leading the purchase by LWUA of the insolvent bank to save it from the brink of bankruptcy.
The Gatchalians and Pichay have yet to be arraigned.
According to the Ombudsman, Pichay and other LWUA officials approved the acquisition of the insolvent bank in 2009 despite audit findings that show that the bank suffered net losses and capital deficits for five straight years from 2005 to 2009.
The acquisition took the effect of a financial rescue, as the LWUA officials bought 445,377 ESBI shares worth P101.363 million from the Gatchalian group that gave the agency 60-percent equity in the bankrupt bank.
Pichay and the other officials later injected P780 million LWUA funds in the bank to increase its authorized capital stock.
The Gatchalians of Wellex and other owners of the bank were also paid P80 million in the acquisition.
The LWUA made the acquisition and transactions despite warnings by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), the Monetary Board of the BSP, and the Department of Finance (DOF) about the ESBI’s fragile financial condition following a due diligence review that showed high liquidity and credit risks.
The acquisition was also made without the requisite regulatory approvals from the BSP, its Monetary Board, the DOF and the Office of the President.
In ordering the filing of charges to the Sandiganbayan, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales said “in view of the bank’s precarious financial standing at the time of the sale, the windfall received by herein private respondents must be deemed unwarranted benefit, advantage or preference.” CDG/rga
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