Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr. of Surigao del Sur, a former official of the Local Water Utilities Administration, entered a plea of “not guilty” to the graft charge filed against him and several others in connection with the alleged release of P1.5 million to the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) despite LWUA’s austerity measures in 2010.
He also pleaded not guilty to the related breach of conduct charge where he was named sole respondent.
In an interview after the arraignment, he told reporters, “I believe that we did not violate any law because even the Constitution promotes sports. National Chess Federation is a national sports association being supported by the government. In fact, we are encouraged not only in all government agencies but including government corporations…to support sports.”
“With regards to that, I find it very peculiar that the Ombudsman had to file a case against me when we are supporting sports. In fact, because of my leadership in NCFP, a Filipino is now number two in the world in chess…We should be proud of that achievement,” he added.
The arraignment on Thursday proceeded after the Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division denied his and Wilfredo Feleo’s plea for case dismissal.
Feleo, former LWUA acting deputy administrator for investment and financial services, is a respondent in the graft case. He and another respondent, former Senior Deputy Administrator and Acting Administrator Emmanuel Malicdem, were arraigned on the graft charge last November.
Pichay and Feleo earlier filed a motion arguing that the Information (charge sheet) should be nullified on the ground of violation of their right to speedy case disposition.
But the anti-graft court said in its resolution that they “failed to fully explain why the cited cases in their motion to quash are applicable to the cases at bar.”
“Secondly, accused Pichay and Feleo rely solely on a pure mathematical reckoning of the period covered from the time the complaint affidavit was filed up to the time of the filing of the information with this Court. There is nothing in the accused’s quashal motion discussing the other factors material and relevant in resolving cases involving the right to speedy disposition of cases. The other factors covering the reasons for delay, assertion or failure to assert by the accused of this right and possible prejudice caused by the delay, were never touched upon by the instant motion,” it added.
The Office of the Ombudsman alleged the NCFP’s request for financial sponsorship for the “2nd Chairman Prospero Pichay Jr. Cup International Chess Championship” was approved despite LWUA’s austerity measures that prohibited the release of funds for sports and cultural activities.
It also alleged that Pichay had financial or material interest in the transaction that required his office’s approval.
Bu Pichay told reporters that he “did not have any personal benefits at all because the money went to the tournament.”
He added he did not mind being arraigned on Thursday “so that the proper hearing will now proceed and that we will be able to ferret out the truth.”