MANILA - The Sandiganbayan Special 4th Division has dismissed the cases of the Gatchalian family in connection with the allegedly anomalous acquisition of their Express Savings Bank Inc. by the Local Water Utilities Administration then headed by former Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay.
In a resolution promulgated by the Special 4th Division, the anti-graft court dismissed the graft, malversation of public funds and violation of the Manual of Regulation for Banks charges against William Gatchalian, Dee Hua Gatchalian, Kenneth Gatchalian, Wesley Gatchalian, as well as their co-accused George Chua, Gergorio Ipon, Edita Bueno, Generoso Tulagan, Elvira Ting, Arthur Ponsaran, Joaquin Obieta, Geronimo Velasco, jr., Peter Salud, Rogelio Garcia, Lamberto Mercado Jr., Evelyn Dela Rosa and Yolanda Dela Cruz.
Based on the charge of the Office of the Ombudsman, the LWUA acquired the majority shares of Express Savings Bank Inc. (ESBI), a local thrift bank in Laguna, for P80.003 million.
The Ombudsman said the purchase of ESBI’s majority shares was done without the necessary approval of the Monetary Board of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the Department of Finance and the Office of the President.
The Ombudsman said that the acquisition proceeded despite findings by an independent audit firm showing that the bank was suffering from financial losses and capital deficits from 2005 to 2009.
The cases are now dismissed after the court granted the motions for reconsideration the accused filed before the court on the initial finding of probable cause to hold trial against them.
The court, however, retained Pichay in the case.
“The court finds probable cause for the issuance of warrants of arrest against accused Prospero Pichay and Wilfredo Feleo Jr. and dismisses the cases against all the other accused,” the court said in a decision penned by Associate Justice Geraldine Faith Econg, with the concurrence of Associate Justices Reynaldo Cruz and Edgardo Caldona, but with dissenting opinion from Associate Justices Alex Quiroz and Sarah Jane Fernandez.
According to the Office of the Clerk of Court of the 4th Division, Pichay has already posted bail.
The court also ordered the cancellation of the surety bonds and the release of cash bonds of the accused, including that of Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, whose cases were earlier dismissed by the court.
“The Hold Departure Orders issued against the accused except for accused Pichay and Feleo Jr. are hereby lifted.