MANILA — The Sandiganbayan on Friday found Surigao Del Sur 1st District Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr. and two others guilty of graft due to anomalies involving P1.5 million worth of chess tournament sponsorships in 2010.
The Sandiganbayan 5th Division sentenced Pichay, who was acting chair of the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) at the time, to 6 to 8 years imprisonment for the irregular use of government funds for a chess tournament under his name.
Also found guilty by the anti-graft court were LWUA’s former deputy acting administrator Wilfredo Feleo and former senior deputy administrator Emmanuel Malicdem.
The court noted that the LWUA Board of Trustees unanimously approved the 2010 operating budget of the agency which contained substantial allotment for sponsorship of chess events.
It added that there was conflict of interest on the part of Pichay when P1.5 million in LWUA funds were diverted to a private activity, the 2nd Chairman Prospero A. Pichay, Jr. Cup International Chess Tournament.
“Apparently, such an interest is starkly opposed to his duties as the LWUA-BOT Acting Chairman of safeguarding LWUA's resources and ensuring that the same are expended in accordance with relevant office and executive issuances,” the court said.
The decision was penned by Associate Justice Maryann Corpus-Mañalac, with the concurrence of Division Chairperson Rafael Lagos and Associate Justice Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega.
It also noted that Feleo recommended the approval of the sponsorship request while Malicdem immediately approved it, which resulted in the release of the check payable to the National Chess Federation of the Philippines.
The court also said in its decision that the 3 accused be held jointly liable to reimburse the P1.5 million, the amount of the sponsorship grant, plus 6 percent interest per annum.
Pichay was likewise found guilty for violating the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for public officials and employees and was meted to pay a fine of P5,000.