Gatchalian couple plead not guilty to graft case

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Spouses William and Dee Hua Gatchalian entered a plea of not guilty on Tuesday during their arraignment for charges of graft, malversation and violation of the Manual of Regulation for Banks in connection with the Local Water Utilities Administration’s (LWUA) allegedly anomalous acquisition of a bank in 2009. The couple were conditionally arraigned after the court’s Fourth Division granted them permission to travel abroad from September 7 to 22, 2016 for a vacation in Thailand, Norway, Iceland and Denmark. Among the terms and conditions issued by the graft court were that they must undergo a conditional arraignment and deposit P270,000, which they have complied with. Their case stemmed from LWUA’s acquisition of the Express Savings Bank Inc. , a local thrift bank based in Laguna, supposedly owned by Wellex Group Inc. (WGI) and the Forum Pacific Inc. Also charged were former LWUA Chairman Prospero Pichay (now Surigao del Sur representative) and former LWUA officials Eduardo Bangayan, Aurelio Puentevella, Enrique Senen Montilla 3rd, Wilfredo Feleo, Daniel Landingin and Arnaldo Espinas. The Gatchalian couple, as well as their sons Sherwin Gatchalian (now senator), Weslie Gatchalian (incumbent Valenzuela City representative) and Kenneth Gatchalian who were former WGI executives were also named respondents.

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