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Bacolod City, Philippines Thursday, July 21, 2016
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Sandigan issues HDO,
includes mayor, Bacoleño

The anti-graft court yesterday issued hold departure orders against Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, former Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay, Isabela Mayor Enrique Montilla, Bacoleño Aurelio Puentevella and 22 others in connection with an alleged anomalous bank acquisition deal in 2009, a government press release said.

The HDO barring them from leaving the country except when there is a prior approval from the court was released by the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division Monday.

“Considering the filing of the subject cases against accused…the Bureau of Immigration is hereby directed to bar/prohibit the above-named accused from leaving the Philippines for any destination abroad, either by air or sea transportation, except by prior written permission duly secured from and granted by this Court,” the HDO read.

The HDO was issued in connection with the criminal cases filed by the Office of the Ombudsman last week, which stemmed from the alleged anomalous acquisition by the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) of a thrift bank owned by the Gatchalian family in the amount of Php 80 million.

Also included in the HDO are Gathchalian's parents Dee Hua Gatchalian and William Gatchalian and brothers Valenzuela Representative Wes Gatchalian, and Kenneth Gatchalian.

Members of the Gatchalian family are facing cases of graft, malversation of public funds and violation of the Manual of Regulation for Banks (MORB).

They are identified in the charge sheets as corporate executives of the WELLEX Group Inc. allegedly involved in the supposed anomalous bank acquisition deal.Sherwin had already posted Php90,000 bail for the cases on Friday last week.

Dee Hua, William, Wes and Kenneth, also each posted Php90,000 bail on Wednesday morning.

Pichay, who is the primary accused in the cases, has yet to post bail. He is facing three counts of graft, three counts of malversation, one count of violation of Republic Act 8791, or General Banking Law of 2000 and one count of violation of the Manual of Regulation for Banks.

The other respondents who are included in the HDO are the following:

Former LWUA officials Eduardo Bangayan,; Aurelio Puentevella , Enrique Senen Montilla III; Wilfredo Feleo Jr.; Daniel Landingin and Arnaldo Espinas.

Montilla and Puentevella, brother of former Bacolod Mayor Monico Puentevella, have denied any wrongdoing.

WELLEX Group Inc. corporate executive Yolanda Dela Cruz, Forum Pacific Inc. executives Elvira Ting, Peter Salud, Geronimo Velasco Jr., Rogelio Garcia, Lamberto Mercado Jr., Evelyn dela Rosa, Arthur Ponsaran and Joaquin Obieta were also included in the HDO.

Express Savings Bank Inc. executives George Chua; Gregorio Ipong; Generoso Tulagan; Wilfred Billena and Edita Bueno

Filed by the Office of the Ombudsman last week, the cases stemmed from the alleged anomalous acquisition by LWUA under then chairman Pichay of Express Savings Bank Inc. in 2009 in the amount of Php80.003 million.

The ESBI is a local thrift bank based in Laguna jointly owned by the FPI and the Gatchalians' WGI.

The Ombudsman said LWUA purchased ESBI's majority shares without the necessary approval of the Monetary Board of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Department of Finance and the Office of the President.

The Ombudsman further said that LWUA acquired ESBI despite findings by an independent audit firm showing that the bank was suffering from financial losses and capital deficits for five straight years from 2005 to 2009.

Instead of cancelling the acquisition deal, the Ombudsman said Pichay and the other members of the Board approved the transfer of almost Php700 million of LWUA funds to ESBI supposedly to increase the bank's authorized capital stock.

The Ombudsman said the majority shares purchased by LWUA are now deemed “worthless” as the BSP's Monetary Board has already placed the ESBI under “receivership” status due to its inability to pay its liabilities and to operate without incurring losses.

Pichay and Sherwin Gatchalian have earlier dismissed the charges as “baseless” and “politically motivated,” maintaining the acquisition deal was above board.*PNA



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