Pichay, Gatchalian arraignment reset to January
The arraignment of Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay, Jr., and Valenzuela City Representative Weslie Gatchalian was reset to January 17 pending their appeals on the Sandiganbayan’s finding of probable cause to try them for graft.
The antigraft court’s Fourth Division has yet to resolve the motions for reconsideration filed by the accused and the prosecution over its resolution that sustained the probable cause for the charges of graft and violation of banking rules, but threw out the related malversation cases.
The case arose from Local Water Utilities Administration’s alleged misuse of P780 million for the purchase of a 60% majority stake in Laguna-based Express Savings Bank Inc. (ESBI), which is jointly owned by Forum Pacific, Inc. (FPI), and the Gatchalian family’s WELLEX Group, Inc. (WGI). At the time of the transaction, Pichay headed the LWUA.
In its 53-page resolution dated Oct. 18, the Fourth Division dismissed the malversation charges because prosecutors failed to implead an “accountable officer” to be held liable for the alleged misuse of funds.
It also junked the charges of violation of Section 19 of the General Banking Act, saying that LWUA officials are allowed to sit as ESBI officers because it was in effect a subsidiary of a government corporation and no longer a private bank.
But, the court ruled that the graft trial will have to proceed, as the defendants only raised arguments that are “clearly evidentiary in nature and would be best threshed out in a trial,” the court noted.
Still facing graft charges were Pichay, Gatchalian, his brother Kenneth and parents William and Dee Hua Gatchalian; former LWUA officials Wilfredo Feleo, Jr., and Enrique Senen Montilla III; WGI executive Yolanda dela Cruz; FPI executives Arthur Ponsaran, Geronimo Velasco, Jr., Peter Salud, Rogelio Garcia, Lamberto Mercado, Jr., Evelyn dela Rosa, Joaquin Obieta, and Elvira Ting; and ESBI corporate officers George Sia Chua, Gregorio Ipong, Wilfred Billena Generoso Tulagan, and Edita Bueno.
Pichay, Feleo and Montilla also still face trial for violation of Section X126.2(c)(2) of the Manual of Regulation for Banks, because probable cause is “obvious” from documents showing that LWUA acquired ESBI’s stocks without the prior approval of the Monetary Board of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
But, the private individuals, including the Gatchalians, were cleared of the charge because the indictment did not question their companies’ actions.
Among the Gatchalians, only Senator Sherwin Gatchalian had been cleared of all the charges of malversation, graft and violation of MORB against him. CDG/rga
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