By Czarina Nicole Ong
The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division has found enough evidence to convict former Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) chief Prospero Pichay of graft for making the reportedly illegal P1.5 million sponsorship for the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) back in 2010.
The anti-graft court junked his motion to file a demurrer to evidence because the prosecution successfully pointed to evidence of conspiracy from his actions. On the other hand, the court approved the same motion to file a demurrer to evidence related to his breach of conduct case.
Pichay was accused of violating Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 and Section 7(a) of R.A. 6713 in October 18, 2016 for giving unwarranted benefits and advantage to the NCFP in the amount of P1.5 million back in 2010.
He reportedly voted for the approval of the said amount for chess events, even though sponsoring of sporting events was not among LWUA’s primary purposes. Pichay, who was simultaneously NCFP’s President at the time, even had the chess events named after him and held in his honor.
A demurrer to evidence is defined as “an objection by one of the parties in an action, to the effect that the evidence which his adversary produced is insufficient in point of law, whether true or not, to make out a case or sustain the issue.”
By filing a demurrer to evidence, Pichay is contesting that the evidence offered in the case is insufficient. If the court grants the demurrer, then the case would be dropped. However, the Sandiganbayan only granted his motion to file demurrer in his breach of conduct charge and maintained his graft charge.
“After a full consideration of the evidence presented by the prosecution, the Court finds that the same appears to be prima facie sufficient to warrant the conviction of the accused beyond reasonable doubt for violation of [graft] unless effectively contradicted by evidence for the accused,” the resolution read.
According to the court, the prosecution successfully pointed to its evidence of conspiracy and “badge of bad faith or partiality” of Pichay since the sponsorship of the chess tourney is “a noticeably substantial allocation” of the LWUA 2010 Operating Budget.
On the other hand, leave of court to file the demurrer to evidence is necessary for Pichay in his breach of conduct charge since there is insufficiency of evidence to prove Pichay’s pecuniary or propriety interest in the transaction.
“While it was proven that accused Pichay is both acting chair of LWUA and president of NCFP during the subject sponsorship, the allegation that he ‘possessed financial or material interest in a transaction requiring the approval of his office’ in reference to the NCFP’s request for LWUA’s financial sponsorship of the chess tournament, may have a doubtful basis in evidence,” the court ruled.
Pichay, who was accused together with Wilfredo M. Feleo, former acting deputy administrator for Investment and Financial Services, was given 10 days from receipt of the Sandiganbayan resolution dated August 23 to file his demurrer.
The six-page resolution was penned by Associate Justice Maryann Corpus-Manalac with the concurrence of Chairperson Rafael Lagos and Associate Justice Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega.