Gatchalian, Pichay cases raffled off to Sandigan divisions
The corruption cases of Valenzuela City mayor Rexlon Gatchalian and Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr. on Friday were raffled off to their respective Sandiganbayan divisions for trial.
Gatchalian’s reckless imprudence charge resulting in multiple homicide and injuries case as well as his graft cases for his alleged involvement in the Kentex fire was raffled off to the anti-graft court Second Division.
The second division is chaired by Associate Justice Samuel Martires, with members Associate Justices Michael Frederick Musngi and Geraldine Faith Econg.
Gatchalian, city hall officials and some firemen were charged with reckless imprudence for conspiring with each other in a “negligent, careless and imprudent manner” in granting a business permit to Kentex while failing to impose the prescribed sanction under Section 9 of the Revised Fire Code of the Philippines.
The grant of the business permit allowed Kentex to operate under hazardous conditions, while abandoning the necessary precautionary fire safety measures meant to protect the lives of the workers and prevent accidents, thus resulting in the deaths of 74 individuals and causing injury amounting to P3.7 million when a fire gutted the slippers factory last May 2015.
Of those killed in the Kentex fire, 69 died of fourth degree burns while three died of inhalation of fumes. The seven-hour fire that did not even spare the life of one of the owners’ sons raised the issue of unsafe “sweatshop” labor conditions for workers in the country.
Mayor Gatchalian is the brother of Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, whose corruption cases for the anomalous buy-out of a family bank by the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) were recently dismissed by the anti-graft court.
Mayor Gatchalian was also charged with graft for giving undue advantage to Kentex in the grant of a business permit in 2015 despite its delinquent status and without requiring a Fire Safety Inspection Certificate.
Gatchalian was charged with a second graft rap for approving the business permit to Kentex even though it was not qualified or entitled to such a permit because of the absence of the required Fire Safety Inspection Certificate.
Pichay’s graft and breach of ethical conduct cases for allegedly sponsoring a chess tournament held in his honor were raffled off to the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division.
The division is chaired by Associate Justice Roland Jurado, with members Associate Justices Rafael Lagos and Ma. Theresa Mendoza-Arcega.
Pichay was charged with graft 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 billed 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.
Pichay was also charged with 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.
Pichay faced new charges just after the Sandiganbayan dismissed his malversation raps over the LWUA buy-out. But the Sandiganbayan sustained his graft and violation of Manual of Regulation for Banks (MORB) raps for the anomalous buy-out by LWUA of the insolvent bank to save it from the brink of bankruptcy.
Both Pichay and Mayor Gatchalian have denied the allegations.
In a statement, Mayor Gatchalian said the Valenzuela City government in granting Kentex the business permit only implemented a joint memorandum circular streamlining its business permit and licensing system.
“We are not just defending ourselves in this case, we are also acting in defense of our anti-graft and corruption practices program… and the practice of almost all of the nation’s local government units,” Gatchalian said.
Pichay said there was nothing anomalous in the grant of sponsorship to the chess game held in his honor, dismissing the allegation as mere harassment by the Ombudsman of allies of former President Gloria 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. CDG/rga
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