The Sandiganbayan has suspended Surigao del Sur 1st District Rep. Prospero Pichay pending litigation of his graft cases involving the alleged anomalous deals when he was the chairperson of the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA).
In a March 1 resolution written by Associate Justice Reynaldo Cruz, the antigraft court’s Fourth Division directed Pichay to cease and desist from exercising his functions as congressman for 90 days.
The resolution also directed the Speaker of the House of Representatives to inform the court in writing of its actions within five days.
Pichay is facing a string of graft cases in relation to the alleged anomalous deals of LWUA in 2009.
Ombudsman prosecutors claimed Pichay 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.
In arguing against his suspension, Pichay said it would serve no purpose considering he no longer holds the position which the graft cases stemmed from, thus posed no risk of destroying evidence or influencing witnesses.
Pichay, who is seeking reelection in the May midterm polls, said he asked his lawyers to counter the anti-graft court’s resolution, and 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. 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 in a statement .
But the court said the issue of whether Pichay’s current office and his previous office are different and was immaterial to suspension.
“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 .
“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,” it added.
The antigraft court said that under Republic Act No. 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, any incumbent public official charged with graft should be suspended from office.
“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 court said. By CLC