Sandiganbayan preventively suspends Maguindanao mayor
MANILA, Philippines – Mayor Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan of Shariff Saydona Mustapha town in Maguindanao was ordered preventively suspended for 90 days by Sandiganbayan while investigation of graft, malversation, and falsification charges against him is being conducted.
According to the resolution dated October 1, Sandiganbayan’s Sixth Division refuted claims by Ampatuan that he should not be suspended as he is no longer occupying the position for which he was charged.
Sandiganbayan cited a previous Supreme Court (SC) ruling hinged on Section 13 of Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which basically says preventive suspension orders applies to whatever office the accused is occupying.
Ampatuan’s charges before the said division stemmed from a supposed misuse of P72.26 million funds in 2009, which was intended for the repair of school buildings. The accused, then sitting as Maguindanao provincial governor, allocated the funds to four supposedly non-existent lumber companies.
“Petitioners contend that the Sandiganbayan has no legal basis to suspend them because they are presently occupying positions different from those under which the Information charged them,” the anti-graft court’s resolution, penned by division chair Associate Justice Sarah Jane Fernandez, said.
“We have long settled this issue. In Libanan v. Sandiganbayan, the petitioner similarly claimed that the order of suspension, based on his indictment as a member of the Sangguniang Bayan could no longer attach to him, as he was already the duly elected and incumbent Vice-Governor of Eastern Samar,” they added.
Sandiganbayan also used a separate SC decision in countering Ampatuan’s assertions that he cannot influence or impede investigation. According to the court, the suspension order is not only aimed at preventing an accused from interfering, but also to avoid other acts of malfeasance while he is in office.
“These reasons cannot override the mandatory character of Section 13. The possibility that the accused would intimidate witnesses or hamper their prosecution is just one of the grounds for preventive suspension,” the anti-graft court said.
“Another is to prevent the accused from committing further acts of malfeasance while in office,” it added.
A copy of the order has been issued to the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), to implement the suspension. DILG on the other hand is required to inform the court of its actions.
After the 90-day period, the suspension order will automatically be lifted. /jpv
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