By Czarina Nicole Ong
The Sandiganbayan Fourth Division has ordered the 90-day suspension of Surigao del Sur 1st District Rep. and Deputy Speaker of the House Prospero Pichay in light of his three pending graft charges and bank violation charge.
Pichay, who was formerly the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) chairman, is facing the charges in relation to the questionable purchase of Express Savings Bank Inc. (ESBI) way back on March 24, 2009.
On January 17, the anti-graft court issued an order directing Pichay to show cause why he should not be suspended, as per the requirements of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
In response, Pichay filed a compliance and claimed that the peculiar circumstances of his case, in addition to other compelling reasons, justify the non-issuance of a preventive suspension order against him.
He reasoned that suspending him from office will not serve the purpose and rationale behind the law. For one thing, Pichay said he is no longer with the LWUA so he wields no power over its employees. Because of this, there is no way he could use his position to influence witnesses or tamper with records.
Pichay added that he currently holds an elective legislative office which is completely different from the appointive position that he held in relation to the case.
However, the anti-graft court found his arguments unmeritorious. The validity of Pichay’s suspension in connection with the case is required by law, and it is of no matter that he is now holding a completely different position from the one in which he was charged with.
“It is doctrinal that suspension pedente lite applies to any office that the public officer is currently holding,” the resolution said.
The five-page resolution promulgated on March 1 was penned by Associate Justice Reynaldo Cruz with the concurrence of Chairperson Alex Quiroz and Associate Justice Edgardo Caldona.