Sandiganbayan suspends Pichay

The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan

The Sandiganbayan has ordered the suspension of Deputy Speaker and Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay for 90 days in connection with a graft case he was involved in when he was chairman of the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA).

In a five-page resolution promulgated last 1 March, the anti-graft court’s Fourth Division directed Pichay to “cease and desist” in performing his duties as congressman. The resolution also denied him his salaries and benefits during the suspension period.

The court also ordered the leadership of the House of Representatives to implement the suspension order.

In his show cause order dated 17 January 2019, Pichay justified that the suspension order will not serve its purpose and rationale behind the law as he belied the possibility of tampering the records saying that all documents relevant to the case are already in the possession of the Office of the Ombudsman.

The congressman added that he is no longer the chairman of LWUA thus, he cannot wield power over the agency’s employees.

Pichay also cited Section 16(3), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution stating that it is the Congress who has the authority to impose disciplinary action on him as he is currently holding an elective legislative office which is “completely different” with the chairmanship position in LWUA in which he was appointed.

The Court, however, rejected Pichay’s argument saying that it is exercising is legal authority in putting the lawmaker under suspension.

The Sandiganbayan also explained that Pichay’s argument regarding his elective position against the appointive position was invalid as doctrine supports that suspension pendent lite applies to any office that the public officer is currently holding.