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Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has ordered the filing of graft and corruption charges against former officials of the Local Water Utilities Administration and top executives of Wellex Group Inc., Forum Pacific Inc., and Express Savings Bank Inc. in connection with the alleged anomalous acquisition by the former of ESBI in 2009.
Facing indictment before the Sandiganbayan after probable cause was established are former LWUA officials Prospero Pichay Jr., Eduardo Bangayan, Aurelio Puentevella, Enrique Senen Montilla III, Wilfredo Feleo, Daniel Landingin, and Arnaldo Espinas; WGI executives outgoing Valenzuela City Rep. and senator-elect Sherwin Gatchalian, Dee Hua Gatchalian, William Gatchalian, Elvira Ting, Kenneth Gatchalian, and Yolanda dela Cruz;
FPI executives Peter Salud, Geronimo Velasco Jr., Weslie Gatchalian, Rogelio Garcia, Lamberto Mercado Jr., Evelyn dela Rosa, Arthur Ponsaran, and Joaquin Obieta, and ESBI officials George Chua, Gregorio Ipong, Generoso Tulagan, Wilfred Billena, and Edita Bueno.
The respondents were charged with three counts of violating the anti-graft law, three counts of malversation, and violations of the General Banking Law of 2000 and the Manual of Regulation for Banks.
The criminal charges involve the purchase by the LWUA of ESBI, a local thrift bank based in Laguna and owned by the Gatchalians, FPI, and WGI.
But the Gatchalian family denied the charges in a press statement, declaring “we are sellers in good faith. We did nothing wrong.”
It criticized the decision of the Ombudsman, explaining that the R80 million paid by LWUA was for the purchase of 60 percent of the bank’s common shares. It said the Wellex Group even lost R200 million compared to the acquisition price. (Jun Ramirez)