The Sandiganbayan has reversed itself and ordered the acquittal of Surigao del Sur 1st District Rep. Prospero Pichay and two others of graft charges in the P1.5-milion sponsorship of a chess tournament by the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) in 2010.
Also acquitted when the anti-graft court granted their motion for reconsideration were former LWUA acting deputy administrator for investment and financial services Wilfredo M. Feleo and former senior deputy administrator Emmanuel Malicdem.
Pichay was charged in the case as former LWUA chairperson and president of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP).
Reconsidered by the anti-graft court was its Oct. 23, 2020 decision which sentenced Pichay, Feleo and Malicdem to a prison term ranging from six to 10 years with perpetual disqualification from holding public office.
The 2020 decision also ordered them to reimburse LWUA of P1.5 million representing the sponsorship grant. In the case of Pichay, he was directed to pay a fine of P5,000 for breach of conduct.
In a resolution issued last March 1 and written by Associate Justice Maryann E. Corpus-Mañalac, the Sandiganbayan said there was nothing on record that would show that the 2010 sponsorship grant to the NCFP in 2010 was disallowed by the Commission on Audit (COA).
In fact, the court pointed out that the 2010 LWUA Corporate Operating Budget had an allocation for the sponsorship of chess events and thus negate the element of undue injury which is an essential element to the crime of graft.
At the same time, the court said that after re-evaluation, the alleged conspiracy among the three accused was not sufficiently established.
It said that there was no proof that the 2010 sponsorship grant needed the approval of Pichay. His signature does not appear in any document suggesting his participation in the processing, approval, and grant of NCFP’s sponsorship request, it also said.
“Wherefore, premises considered, the present motion for reconsideration dated Nov. 6, 2020 is granted. The decision dated Oct. 23, 2020 is set aside and vacated,” the court ruled.
Associate Justices Rafael R. Lagos and Maria Theresa V. Mendoza Arcega concurred in the resolution.