MANILA, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan has overturned a graft conviction against former Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) acting board chair and now Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr. and two others over the agency’s P1.5 million sponsorship of a 2010 chess tournament.
In a resolution dated March 1, the anti-graft court acquitted Pichay, and his co-accused former LWUA senior deputy administrator Emmanuel Blancaflor Malicdem and former acting deputy administrator Wilfredo Manalili Feleo of violating Section 3(e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The Sandiganbayan also acquitted the lawmaker of the charge of violating Section 7(a) of Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
According to the resolution, the prosecution failed to prove that the extension of the sponsorship grant required approval from Pichay’s office.
“Upon review of the records, the Court finds the prosecution failed to sufficiently prove that the 2010 sponsorship grant necessitated the approval of accused Pichay’s office as Chairman of LWUA’s Board of Trustees,” the resolution read.
“It was not shown that the process for approving NCFP’s (National Chess Federation of the Philippines) specific request included, or passed thru the said office of accused Pichay,” it added.
“On the contrary, the records indicate that the 2010 sponsorship grant was processed, approved, and released without need of securing his endorsement or the authority of his office.”
The anti-graft court’s resolution also read that the cash bonds posted by the accused were hereby ordered released, and their hold departure orders issued in connection with their cases were ordered lifted and set aside.
It was on Oct. 23, 2020, when the Sandiganbayan convicted the three of graft after Pichay approved a P1.5 million budget for a chess competition during his stint at the LWUA, which coincided with his term as NCFP president in 2010.
As acting chair, Pichay was responsible for approving LWUA’s budget for 2010, wherein the budget was allocated for the chess competition named 2nd Chairman Prospero Pichay Jr. Cup International Chess Championship — even if the government agency was implementing austerity measures to save funds.
As part of their conviction, the three were sentenced from six years and one month to eight years in jail. They were also barred from public office, and were also ordered to reimburse P1.5 million to LWUA, plus 6-percent interest per annum.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.