MANILA — Deputy House Speaker and Surigao del Sur 1st District Representative Prospero Pichay, Jr. on Tuesday disputed his supposed perpetual disqualification from holding public office despite a Supreme Court resolution affirming the ruling of the Office of the Ombudsman.
The high court’s First Division upheld the Ombudsman’s finding of grave misconduct on the part of Pichay when he, as head of the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA), acquired a thrift bank in 2009 without the approval of the Monetary Board and the President.
Aside from dismissal from service, part of the penalty for the administrative charge includes perpetual disqualification from public service, according to the court’s 40-page resolution.
“This Supreme Court decision is not yet final and executory. I respect the decision of the Supreme Court, however, I am determined to exhaust all possible legal remedies accorded to me by law,” Pichay said in a statement to ABS-CBN News on Tuesday.
He contested the SC First Division’s ruling.
“I stand by my position that the Ombudsman has no authority to discipline the Members of Congress. Section 21 of RA 6770 provides that the Office of the Ombudsman shall have disciplinary authority over all elective and appointive officials of the Government and its subdivisions, instrumentalities and agencies," he said.
"[This includes] members of the Cabinet, local government, government-owned or controlled corporations and their subsidiaries, except over officials who may be removed only by impeachment or over members of Congress and the Judiciary."
However, at the time the administrative and criminal complaints were filed at the Office of Ombudsman in September 2010, Pichay was not a member of Congress.
He did not become a member of Congress until 2016 when he returned to his previous post as representative of the 1st district of Surigao del Sur.
Pichay also reiterated his argument raised before the Supreme Court that the perpetual disqualification under Administrative Order No. 07 only applies to government positions that involve employment, not to any public office.
“Notably, CSC Resolution No. 01-0365 further clarified that the penalty of perpetual disqualification from reemployment in the government service pertains to appointive positions and does not apply to elective positions,” he argued in his statement.
SC had said AO 07 makes the penalties under Executive Order No. 292, including perpetual disqualification from holding public office, applicable to disciplinary actions.
Pichay stressed he is not at all disqualified from running for a third term at the House of Representatives.
“The recent Supreme Court decision only resolved the complaints filed against me before the Office of the Ombudsman. It must be emphasized that this Supreme Court decision is NOT a petition for disqualification of my candidacy as Congressman," he explained.
"In other words, the subject matter of said decision has no relation whatsoever to my fitness to run and hold an elective public position, because it did not specifically and categorically rule on my qualification or disqualification to run as congressman," he added.
Pichay also blamed political opponents for allegedly digging old cases against him.
“The malicious filing of nuisance petitions have been the hobby of my opponents and the digging of my old cases has become part of their political tools. Clearly, my opponents fear the voice of the people in Surigao del Sur come election day,” Pichay said.
“Bearing in mind the fact that ours is a judicial system that applies and interprets the law free from political bias, I implore my supporters and well-wishers to remain calm," he added.
"I continue to remain unshaken in my belief that the people of Surigao del Sur, who have been consistently and repeatedly freely giving me their mandate and trust, are with me in this battle."
It was, however, Pichay’s own petitions that were resolved by the Supreme Court when he questioned adverse rulings against him by the Court of Appeals and the Sandiganbayan.