Sandigan junks bid of ex-Maguindanao Gov. Ampatuan to reverse conviction
MANILA, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan has dismissed the bid of Shariff Saydona Mustapha Mayor Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan to reverse his conviction for anomalous school projects when he was still Maguindanao governor.
According to the 14-page resolution by the anti-graft court’s Fourth Division last September 4, the arguments raised by Ampatuan and his co-accused former provincial engineer Datu Ali Abpi lack merit as these were already addressed in the court’s decision last March 22.
“The arguments advanced by accused-movants have been raised in their Memoranda and have been addressed in the Court’s 22 March 2019 Decision. Hence, there is nothing in the present motions that convinces the Court to reconsider its ruling,” the resolution penned by Associate Justice Bayani Jacinto said.
Ampatuan was found guilty of a graft case, a malversation of public funds case, and 63 other counts of falsification of public documents over the ghost purchase of construction materials worth P38.12 million. This was supposed to be used for the repair of a school building in the province.
Both Ampatuan and Abpi were ordered to pay a P35 million fine, and were perpetually disqualified from holding public office.
The former governor claims that the anti-graft court was wrong in convicting him as there were certain disbursement vouchers (DVs) that he did not sign, and that it was supposedly not proven that he was aware of contractor Abo Lumberyard and Construction Supply’s illegibility.
He also insisted that the court disregarded a certification from the Bureau of Immigration which said that he was out of the country when he supposedly signed the DVs.
Still, the Sandiganbayan noted that it is hard to believe their claim especially if there is proof that the provincial government purchased materials for several months, without knowing that the contractor is non-existent.
“[…] It is hard to subscribe to their claim of good faith when the evidence shows that within a span of nine months – July 2009 to September 2009 – the Province made 73 emergency purchases of lawaan boards and plywood worth P35,747,493.00 purportedly for the repairs of unspecified school buildings from Abo Lumberyard, a non-existing entity,” the anti-graft court explained.
“Accused Ampatuan signed 64 P.O.s (purchase orders), some of which were signed on the same day; for example, he signed five in March 2009 and 11 in July 2009. All these P.O.’s lacked the required supporting documents,” it added.
The Sandiganbayan added that even if it was not confirmed whether Ampatuan benefitted from the transactions, he may still be convicted for malversation through negligence.
“In this case, accused Ampatuan, as an accountable officer, admitted that public funds were indeed released to Abo Lumberyard. However, he failed to explain why these funds were disbursed amidst the overwhelming evidence that the said entity does not exist,” the anti-graft court said.
“In this connection, there is no merit in accused Ampatuan’s argument that the law does not accord him any responsibility to ensure that supporting documents were attached to the DVs before he signed them. It has long been settled that chief executives of local government units are accountable for the public funds within their jurisdiction,” they noted. /muf
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