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Sandiganbayan overturns House leaderâs graft conviction over chess tournament
In a resolution promulgated on March 1 and obtained by reporters yesterday, the anti-graft court’s fourth division dismissed Pichay’s argument that his suspension serves no purpose because he is no longer connected with LWUA.
Michael Varcas

Sandiganbayan overturns House leader’s graft conviction over chess tournament

Xave Gregorio (Philstar.com) - March 3, 2021 - 2:32pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan overturned the graft conviction of Deputy Speaker Prospero Pichay (Surigao del Sur) and two others over the sponsorship of a chess tournament named after him when he was Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) chair in 2010.

The anti-graft court said in a 24-page decision handed down Monday that it found no sufficient evidence to prove that Pichay’s approval was necessary for the LWUA to grant the sponsorship with the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP).

“The records indicate that the 2010 sponsorship grant was processed, approved and released without need of securing his endorsement or the authority of his office,” the Sandiganbayan said through Associate Justice Maryann Corpus Mañalac. 

“His signature does not appear in any document suggesting his participation in the processing, approval and grant of NCFP’s 2010 sponsorship request,” the decision continued.

The Sandiganbayan noted that while it is true that the LWUA board of trustees earmarked in its 2010 corporate operating budget a P1.5-million funding for chess tournaments, this was “general and not explicitly in favor of the NCFP’s request.”

The court also cleared former LWUA senior deputy administrator Emmanuel Malicdem and former acting deputy administrator for investment and financial services Wilfredo Feleo.

The court held that Malicdem and Feleo did not act with manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence as they both consulted LWUA records to check if the agency can sponsor a chess tournament.

It also said that there is insufficient proof that the sponsorship caused undue injury to the government or gave the NCFP unwarranted benefit.

It added that it was not sufficiently established that Pichay, Malicdem and Feleo conspired on the assailed sponsorship.

The three were originally sentenced to six to eight years in prison and were barred from holding public office in October 2020 in a ruling by the Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division.

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