Rep. Pichay claims SC decision over his graft case not yet final

SAN FRANCISCO, Agusan del Sur (MindaNews / 18 Jan) – Deputy Speaker and Surigao del Sur First District Rep. Prospero Pichay has claimed that the Supreme Court decision to uphold his graft case at the Ombudsman in 2011 is not yet final and executory.

Photo from the Facebook page of Rep. Prospero Arreza Pichay Jr.

Pichay posted a press statement in social media to refute reports circulated in several news outlets in the country that he is now disqualified to run for public office after the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Ombudsman indicting him for graft over the P780-million deal when he was still chair of the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA).

“The recent Supreme Court decision only resolved the complaints filed against me before the Office of the Ombudsman. It must be emphasized that this Supreme Court decision is not a petition for disqualification of my candidacy as congressman,” Pichay pointed out in his statement.

He added that the decision has no relation to his fitness to run and hold any elective public position since it did not specifically and categorically rule on his qualification or disqualification to seek another term in Congress.

In a 40-page notice, the Supreme Court First Division rejected Pichay’s claim that he was not given due process when the antigraft body found him guilty of grave misconduct for pushing for LWUA’s acquisition of an insolvent thrift bank without the required clearances from the state financial regulators.

It also rejected his consolidated petitions to void the two resolutions of the Court of Appeals in 2013 and 2014, and the two subsequent orders of the Sandiganbayan in 2016 and 2017, that affirmed the Ombudsman’s decision to indict him for graft.

The tribunal said the penalties imposed on Pichay for committing an administrative offense included perpetual disqualification from holding public office, cancellation of eligibility and forfeiture of retirement benefits.

But Pichay maintained the Ombudsman has no authority to discipline the members of Congress.

He cited Section 21 of Republic Act 6770 which provides that the Ombudsman shall have disciplinary authority over all elective and appointive officials of the government and its subdivisions, instrumentalities and agencies, including cabinet members, local government, government- owned or controlled corporations and their subsidiaries.

Pichay, however, cited that lawmakers in Congress and members of the judiciary can be removed from office only by impeachment process.

“I respect the decision of the Supreme Court; however, I am determined to exhaust all possible legal remedies accorded to me by law,” Pichay said.

Pichay has lambasted his political opponents in Surigao del Sur, whom he believed were behind the malicious filing of what he called nuisance petitions.

“Digging of my old cases has become part of their political tools. Clearly, my opponents fear the voice of the people in Surigao del Sur come election day,” he said. (Chris V. Panganiban / MindaNews)