ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines?Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo said it was up to the Department of Justice to move for the freezing of the assets of Zaldy Ampatuan, the suspended governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Robredo told reporters during a visit here on Thursday that the government believed it was possible to freeze Ampatuan?s assets following the discovery that billions of pesos in public funds disappeared during his term as governor of the five-province region.
?Only the court can do it but it is very important to file the graft charges immediately against Ampatuan because this will make the freezing of their assets (possible) and we intend to file the case as soon as possible,? he said.
Robredo said documentary evidence, including audit reports, have already been submitted to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima?s office.
Aside from the office of the ARMM governor, missing funds were also discovered at the regional public works office and the ARMM Social Fund office.
Robredo said Ampatuan?s office alone authorized cash advances to disbursing officers amounting to P866 million, which represented 80 percent of the total disbursements of the Office of the Regional Governor.
?The evidence was overwhelming?receipts being disowned by companies that supposedly issued them and a lot more indicating that supporting documents submitted had been fabricated,? he said.
Like his father, Andal Sr., and his siblings, Ampatuan owns a lot of properties, including mansions and luxury vehicles, even though he was not known to have any profitable business that could have generated that much wealth.
He and his family also traveled a lot, including watching the fights of boxing idol Manny Pacquiao in the United States, Robredo said.
There was even a report that Ampatuan was once held briefly at the Los Angeles airport with his family when they flew to the US to watch Pacquiao?s fight with Ricky Hatton because of undeclared cash amounting to US$6 million.
Ampatuan denied the report but it raised questions such as how could be so rich when he was only a government servant earning about P30,000 per month, Robredo said.
Although he did not categorically say that Ampatuan pocketed the missing funds, Robredo said he malversed public funds.
Robredo said that in the past, Ampatuan easily got away with misuse of government funds because ?there was no actual honest-to-goodness auditing conducted.?
Ampatuan was ARMM governor from 2005. He was suspended following his arrest in connection with the 2009 Maguindanao massacre, in which more than 50 people including journalists, were killed.