Ampatuans’ try to retrieve funds foiled
A commotion ensued inside the Banco de Oro branch in Cotabato City on Saturday morning after two lawyers representing the Ampatuan family tried to withdraw money from the bank accounts of their clients, but they were rebuffed by officials and police.
The incident took place a day after the expiration of the six-month freeze order issued by the Court of Appeals on the bank accounts and other assets of Andal Ampatuan Sr., Zaldy Ampatuan and other family members, who are the prime suspects in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre.
BDO manager Ramona Bansuan said they blocked the attempt by the lawyers to withdraw the funds from the accounts of the Ampatuan family because “we lacked authority to grant it.”
Bansuan said they had to ask for police assistance when the lawyers insisted on withdrawing the money from the bank, which is located on Makakua Street here.
Supt. Danny Reyes of the city office said they managed to convince the two lawyers, whom he declined to identify, to walk out of the bank after a 30-minute negotiation.
Freeze order expired
On Friday, the six-month freeze order of the Court of Appeals on the Ampatuan clan’s bank accounts expired, prompting the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to file a civil forfeiture case against the Ampatuans and seek a new freeze order.
The Manila court issued a new freeze order on the Ampatuan accounts on Friday afternoon.
Among the assets covered by the freeze order were properties under Deal Gems and Jewelries Pawnshop, Maguindanao Electric Cooperative, Banco de Oro, Unibank, Bank of the Philippine Islands, BPI Family Savings Bank, Development Bank of the Philippines, Coop Bank of Cotabato, EastWest Banking Corp., Philippine AXA Life Insurance Corp. and Network RB Inc.
To thwart future attempts by the Ampatuan clan to withdraw money from their frozen bank accounts, police officers have been deployed to the BDO branch.
Upon the request of the Department of Justice, Interior Secretary Jesse M. Robredo said he had ordered a police team deployed to the BDO branch in Cotabato City, where they would remain posted until further notice.
“There are no requests to watch other banks but we are prepared to send police personnel if necessary,” said Robredo, who exercises supervisory powers over the Philippine National Police.
The National Union of Journalist of the Philippines (NUJP) and the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ) had earlier warned that the Ampatuans might try to regain control of their enormous unexplained wealth to put pressure on their trial for the Maguindanao massacre.
Several members of the Ampatuan clan are on trial for their alleged involvement in the massacre of 58 persons, including 32 journalists, on Nov. 23, 2009, in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao. The body of the reported 58th victim, photojournalist Reynaldo Momay, has yet to been recovered.
A lifestyle check conducted by the AMLC showed that Ampatuan clan members had engaged in financial transactions amounting to more than P1 billion from 2000 to 2009. It was also found that the deals were supported by spurious documents.
The AMLC also noted that the statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) of Andal Sr., the clan’s patriarch, did not include his real properties worth P90.46 million.
According to the AMLC report, the clan patriarch owns 27 houses in Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao, Cotabato City and Davao City. He also has 91 vehicles with an estimated value of P111.23 million registered under his name and his wife’s, Bai Laila.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
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.