Sandiganbayan nixes plea of former Maguindanao governor for dismissal of graft case
The Sandiganbayan has denied the motion of former Maguindanao governor Datu Sajid Ampatuan to have the cases filed against him for the alleged anomalous purchase of oil products in 2009 dismissed due to insufficient evidence.
In a decision dated October 17, the Sandigan’s Fifth Division signed by Associate Justices Maryann Corpus-Manalac, Rafael Lagos, and Maria Theresa Mendoza – Arcega, ruled that the motion for leave to file demurrer to evidence filed by Ampatuan’s lawyers would only delay the legal proceedings.
Ampatuan’s camp can still submit the demurrer — a petition seeking the dismissal of cases because of insufficient evidence — but may risk losing his right to submit rebuttal evidence.
“Given the sufficiency of the testimonial and documentary evidence to sustain the indictments against the accused, it is incumbent upon the accused to adduce evidence on his behalf to refute the allegations of the prosecution,” the decision said.
Ampatuan is facing charges for violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and falsification of public documents as per the Revised Penal Code, after purchasing fuel and lubricants for government vehicles from the Shariff Aguak Petron gas station owned by his brother.
He has reasoned out that he was not involved in the bidding process, as he only signed documents as an approving authority, and that he was not a part of the bidding committee.
Ampatuan also invoked the Arias doctrine, which states that heads of offices rely on the good faith of people who prepared the bidding documents.
“The respective Statements of Work Accomplished (SWAs) for the projects only show his signature as approving authority but there is no evidence that he knew these SWAs were spurious,” Ampatuan’s motion said.
He further argued that the local government unit (LGU) of Maguindanao was not placed at a disadvantage when they sourced oil products from the said gas station.
“There is no evidence of undue injury to the government or unwarranted benefit to Shariff Aguak Petron Station, considering that it was more convenient and advantageous to the LGU in Maguindanao to utilize Shariff Aguak Petron Station which is the only gasoline station existing in the area,” Ampatuan’s camp added.
However, the Sandiganbayan noted that Ampatuan, as provincial chief executive, was duty-bound to scrutinize the bids before signing it.
“Datu Sajid’s invocation of the ‘Arias doctrine’ that he may allegedly rely in good faith on the works of his subordinates as head of the local government of the Province of Maguindanao, is negated by the prima facie evidence of the prosecution showing his complicity in the anomalous procurement subject of these cases,” the decision said.
“Datu Sajid needs to present proofs to rebut or contradict the issue,” it added. /muf
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.