Court denies Pichay's call for TRO

by Ina Reformina,

Posted at May 31 2011 08:47 AM | Updated as of May 31 2011 09:53 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Former Surigao del Sur Representative Prospero Pichay, Jr. has failed to convince the Court of Appeals (CA) to grant him a temporary restraining order (TRO) or injunctive relief on the preventive suspension meted out by the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with a case filed against him by employees of the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) where he sits as member of the Board of Trustees.

The case stems from LWUA's purchase of Express Savings Bank, Inc. (EXSBI), a financially troubled bank, that resulted in the "dissipation and misappropriation of public funds in the amount of at least P480,000,000."

In a 3-page resolution penned by Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe, the appellate court's 3rd Division said Pichay failed to justify the need for the issuance of an injunctive writ to stop his 6-month suspension issued by Acting Ombudsman Orlando Casimiro.

"... petitioner has so far failed to show a clear and unmistakable right which would justify the issuance of an injunctive writ. Neither has he sufficiently established any urgent and imperative necessity for the grant of the said writ as would prevent serious damage," the resolution read.

"An order of preventive suspension is merely a preliminary step in an administrative investigation, usually made immediately effective and executory, to prevent the respondent from using his/her position or office to influence prospective witnesses or tamper with the records which may be vital to the prosecution of the case," the resolution read.

The court also pointed out that Pichay's petition for certiorari questioning the Ombudsman' suspension order failed to counter material evidence against him including "the consolidated criminal and administrative complaint field by LWUA employees; petitioner's counter affidavit; and the parties' verified position papers."

The court directed Pichay to correct his petition's deficiencies within 5 days from receipt of the resolution, failure of which shall cause its dismissal.

The court meantime asked the Office of the Ombudsman to file its comment to Pichay's petition.

The non-issuance of a TRO or injunctive writ is without prejudice to the court's action on the merits of the petition.

Aside from the case against Pichay before the anti-graft court on the alleged questionable purchase of EXSBI, a criminal complaint is also pending on the same facts of the case before the Department of Justice (DOJ), this time, filed by finance chief Cesar Purisima. Purisima also lodged an administrative case against Pichay before the Office of the President (OP).