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Sandiganbayan suspends Pichay for 90 days

MANILA, Philippines — Deputy Speaker and Surigao del Sur 1st District Rep. Prospero Pichay has been suspended for 90 days to prevent him from interfering with his graft case, according to the Sandiganbayan.

In a five-page resolution by the Sandiganbayan’s Fourth Division last March 1, the anti-graft court countered Pichay’s claim that he should not be suspended because he no longer holds the position which the graft cases stemmed from.

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“He explains that the essence of preventive suspension is to allow the disciplining authority to conduct an unhampered investigation; and thus, a suspension order is issued to prevent him from using his position and/or the power and prerogatives of his office to influence potential witnesses or tamper with records,” the resolution penned by Associate Justice Reynaldo Cruz said.

“Accused Pichay’s contention is without merit. In this case, the records show that accused Pichay is charged under three separate valid information with violation of Section 3 of R.A. 3019,” the anti-graft court added.

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In a statement on Thursday, Pichay said he asked his lawyers to counter the resolution, expressing hopes that he would be “vindicated” in the end.

“I understand that the preventive suspension order issued against me is not yet final and executory,” the district congressman said. “Thus, I have instructed my lawyers to exercise all available legal remedies to assail said order. I am hopeful that in the end I will be vindicated.”

Pichay was accused of entering into anomalous deals in 2009 when he was the chairperson of the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA).

He allegedly passed a resolution allowing LWUA to acquire a local bank in Laguna without requirements from top agencies, including the Department of Finance and the Office of the President.

Under Section 13 of R.A. 3019 or the Anti Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, public officials who are being prosecuted under valid information will be suspended from office.

The same provision states that convicted public officials will lose all retirement or gratuity benefits, while those acquitted may be reinstated and entitled to receive salaries and benefits he failed to receive during the suspension.

The anti-graft court also noted that it is not an issue of whether Pichay’s current office and his previous office are different.

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“Also, it is of no consequence that accused Pichay is presently holding an office which is completely different from the previous position that he held in relation to the instant case because it is doctrinal that suspension pendente lite applies to any office that the public officer is currently holding,” the Sandiganbayan explained.

The Sandiganbayan also asked the House of Representatives to inform them of its actions within five days after receiving a copy of the resolution. — With Pathricia Ann V. Roxas /ee

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