Ombudsman under fire for 'shielding' Pichay

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 18 2011 07:44 PM | Updated as of Jan 19 2011 07:22 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Ombudsman Merciditas Gutierrez has come under fire anew for allegedly shielding an Arroyo ally, Prospero Pichay, from corruption charges.

Former Akbayan party-list Rep. Risa Hontiveros said in a press statement on Tuesday that Gutierrez denied last January 5 a petition for preventive suspension filed against Local and Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) officials, including Pichay, who is currently the chairman of the LWUA Board of Trustees.

The case was filed by LWUA employees who accused Pichay and other LWUA officials of plunder.

"Ombudsman Gutierrez is definitely on a roll. After striking a lopsided plea bargain deal with Garcia, which if finalized will absolve him of any wrongdoing, she now protects another established Arroyo crony. As arid as the sun, the Ombudsman under her tutelage is nothing but the gatekeeper of the corrupt," Hontiveros alleged.

She said Gutierrez’s efforts in protecting the past administration's allies is "unparalleled."

The former party-list lawmaker described Gutierrez as a person "completely supreme in her shamelessness" as she "purposively deflects serious efforts to make erring public officials accountable."

"GMA is off the hook. Garcia is off the hook. Now Pichay is enjoying the same privilege. This is despicable. Nakakasuka na talaga. The impunity of Gutierrez is stomach-churning," Hontiveros said.

LWUA employees Rustico Tutol, Luis Estrada, and Carmen Amores accused Pichay of plunder in connection with the agency's decision to buy 60% of the Express Savings Bank, Inc. (ESBI).

LWUA paid P80 million for the 60% of the common shares of ESBI, whose main office is located in Cabuyao, Laguna.

The bank was undergoing rehabilitation from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas at that time of LWUA's purchase. The employees added that through LWUA board resolution no. 336, the government agency invested another P400 million to increase the bank's authorized capital.

The alleged investments, the employees claimed, were unauthorized expenditures tantamount to malversation and misappropriation of public funds based on Republic Act 7080 or the law defining and penalizing the crime of plunder and violation of the anti-graft law.

Aside from Pichay, LWUA acting director Daniel Landingin, acting deputy administrator Wlfredo Feleo, and corporate legal officer Arnaldo Espinas, were also accused of plunder.

"We will not let this continue. We give our utmost support to the rank-and-file workers of LWUA in their just struggle to remove corrupt officials from their administrative center. Pichay will be removed. Arroyo's midnight appointees will be flushed out and the ombudsman will be reformed," Hontiveros said.