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SC affirms CA, Sandiganbayan, Ombudsman perpetual disqualification against Pichay looms



The Supreme Court (SC) First Division released a resolution formally junking the consolidated petitions filed by Surigao del Sur 1st Dist. Rep. Prospero Pichay, which includes the ruling for a penalty of perpetual disqualification against the lawmaker to hold any position in government.

According to the 40-page resolution of the said SC division dated November 11, 2021, and only uploaded to the high tribunal’s website last January 14, 2022, Pichay’s appeal to reverse previous decisions issued by the Court of Appeals (CA), Sandiganbayan, and the Office of the Ombudsman were nullified.

Based on the court’s record, the Office of the Ombudsman first issued a decision wherein it found Pichay guilty along with two other individuals, for grave misconduct and ordered a dismissal from service on July 4, 2011, wherein the accused individuals filed for their own separate Motions for Reconsideration yet got revoked once again by the former on August 1, 2011.

Pichay in return filed a petition for review at the CA on November 13, 2012, asserting that his right to due process was violated, coupled with his conviction that the dismissal from service ruling issued upon him was against the Administrative Order No. 59

“In its Decision dated October 23, 2013, the CA denied the petition of Pichay, thereby affirming the Ombudsman’s finding of grave misconduct, and his dismissal from service. The CA agreed with the findings of the Office of the Ombudsman, and likewise held that no violation of due process occurred as Pichay was given the opportunity to answer and argue against the accusations raised against him. Pichay filed a motion for reconsideration, 66 which was denied in a Resolution dated February 24, 2014,” the SC resolution reads.

Aside from the previous Ombudsman and CA decisions, Pichay also appealed to the high tribunal the resolutions dated October 18, 2016 and November 17, 2017 issued by the Sandiganbayan favoring the Ombudsman’s finding of a probable cause to charge Pichay and others three counts of violation towards Sec. 3(e) of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 3019 as well as violating Section XI26.2(c)(1)(2) of Manual of Regulations for Banks (MORB), which relates to Sections 36 and 237 of R.A. No. 7653.

As the SC First Division weave through Pichay’s requests, the high court indisputably debunked all of legislator’s allegations such as violating his right to due process, his questioning of Sandiganbayan’s ruling in finding a probable cause in cases filed against him, the right for a speedy disposition of the case, and the unreasonable ruling of the Ombudsman of perpetual disqualification for re-employment in the government service.

“Under the RRACCS (Revised Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service), the penalty of dismissal shall carry with it cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, perpetual disqualification from holding public office, and bar from taking civil service examinations,” the SC further affirmed.

As a result, Pichay’s reelection bid as Surigao del Sur 1st Dist. representative in the lower house might be in peril. Running against him is the incumbent Construction Workers Solidarity (CWS) party-list Rep. Romeo S. Momo, Sr., a former DPWH Undersecretary.

The case stemmed from the purchase of Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA), where Pichay formerly served as acting board chair, of about 445,377 shares of Express Savings Bank, Inc. (ESBI) which equates to his 60 percent voting stock amounting to P80-M.

Last August 4, 2009, LWUA Board passed Resolution No. 303, Series of 2009 establishing ESBI as the agency’s depository bank, wherein a savings account was opened under LWUA’s name and already P300 million from the agency’s Landbank account was transferred to its newly purchased bank.

“Afterwards, ESBI’s shareholders and directors approved an amendment to ESBI’s Articles of Incorporation (AO), increasing the bank’s authorized capital stock from P500 Million to P2 Billion. On August 17, 2009, before either the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or the BSP could take action on ESBI’s amended AOI, the LWUA Board passed Resolution No. 336 Series of 2009, approving the payment of P400 Million to ESBI, representing LWUA’s subscription in the event that ESBI’s proposed increase in capitalization is approved by regulators,” SC remarked.

“A check was then drawn from the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) account of LWUA and deposited in its ESBI current account. However, due to lack of approval from the BSP, the amount of P400 Million was booked by ESBI as a liability under the Accrued Expenses and Other Liabilities account in its balance sheet for the end-year 2009,” the high tribunal added.

The SC further found out, based on the case filed against Pichay, that ESBI is under the rehabilitation of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), therefore justifying that LWUA’s investments totaling P780-M are deemed disadvantageous to the agency.

In addition, LWUA’s purchase of ESBI shares was not authorized by the BSP and Monetary Board (MB), aside from it violating Section 15 of General Appropriations Act (GAA) for FY 2020 or preventing the use of government funds as investments or deposits to any private banking institutions.

“Ultimately, the absence of the requisite MB (Monetary Board) approval resulted in losses on the part of the government in the total amount of P780 Million. This amount could have been used for other endeavors to help local water utilities.” The High Tribunal stressed.