Pichay faces graft, breach of conduct raps
Just after the Sandiganbayan had cleared him of malversation in an anomalous bank buy-out case, former Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) chief Surigao Del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr. was charged with graft and breach of ethical conduct for allegedly sponsoring a chess tournament held in his honor in 2010.
The Office of the Special Prosecutor filed one count of graft against Pichay and LWUA officials Daniel Landingin, Emmanuel Malicdem and Wilfredo Feleo.
The prosecution accused them of violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, for acting with manifest partiality, evident bad faith and gross inexcusable negligence in giving undue advantage to the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) when Pichay sponsored P1.5 million for the chest tournament billeted as “2nd Chairman Prospero Pichay Jr. Cup International Chess Championship.”
Pichay, as both president of the NCFP and acting chairman of the LWUA Board of Trustees, voted for the approval of LWUA’s 2010 corporate operating budget that had a “noticeably sizable allocation” of P1.5 million for chess events, even though sponsoring such events was not part of the LWUA’s functions, the prosecution said.
“The above acts by the accused public officials thus allowed the diversion of said public funds to NCFP’s control and benefit, when, in fact, said private organization was not entitled to the aforesaid sponsorship grant; rather, the aforesaid approval and release of the funds was intentionally done to favor Pichay, to the prejudice of the Filipino people and the Republic of the Philippines,” the graft charge read.
The prosecution also charged Pichay with one count of violating Section 7(a) of Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
Pichay was accused of allegedly having financial and material interest in sponsoring the chess tournament at a time when he concurrently held the position of LWUA acting board chairman and president of the NCFP.
The prosecution said the NCFP requested financial sponsorship from LWUA at the time Pichay was a high-ranking official of both offices.
In a statement, Pichay said there was nothing irregular with the sponsorship of the LWUA for the chess tilt, adding that the Ombudsman only intended to target allies of the former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“There’s nothing at all irregular with the LWUA sponsorship for a National Sports Association like the NFCP. What is irregular is that the Ombudsman continues to have a vendetta against the members of the Arroyo administration with trumped-up charges that will ultimately be dismissed by the courts,” Pichay said.
He denied having any financial interest in the sponsorship, and that he even requested that his name be removed from the name of the competition.
“My name was put there in the tournament by the members of the NCFP in thanks for my having spearheaded chess development for almost a decade, and to more easily draw sponsorships from our many friends. But afterwards, I already insisted that they remove my name from this annual event,” Pichay said.
Pichay said he does not deny that he used his influence in the Arroyo administration if only to promote chess.
“Nahihibang na yata sila (They must be going crazy). I have long spent my personal funds just for the sake of promoting chess in the Philippines. My only benefit from being with the NCFP is the satisfaction of seeing more youth get into chess,” Pichay said.
Pichay faced new charges just after the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division dismissed his malversation case in connection with the anomalous buy-out by LWUA of an insolvent bank co-owned by the Gatchalians in 2009.
READ: Sandigan dismisses LWUA cases of Sen. Gatchalian | Sandigan reduces charges vs Gatchalians, Pichay
However, the court found probable cause to try Pichay and the Gatchalians with graft and violations of the Manual of Regulation for Banks (MORB) for the anomalous buy-out by LWUA of Express Savings Bank Inc. to save the bank from the brink of bankruptcy.
Among the Gatchalians, only Senator Sherwin Gatchalian was cleared of all the charges.
The court recently deferred their arraignment to give them time to appeal the finding of probable cause. IDL/RAM/rga
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