Ex-Maguindanao Gov. Ampatuan convicted of graft, falsification
The Sandiganbayan on Friday convicted former Maguindanao Gov. Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan of graft and falsification of public documents in connection with several ghost road rehabilitation projects amounting to more than P20 million.
The antigraft court’s Fifth Division has also ordered Ampatuan’s arrest for his failure to physically attend on Friday morning the promulgation of the decision that found him guilty of eight counts of graft and eight counts of falsification of public documents.
In a 79-page decision penned by Associate Justice Maryann Corpus-Mañalac, Ampatuan was sentenced to six to eight years in prison for his graft conviction and another two to six years jail time for the falsification charges.
Also found guilty of falsification charges were engineers Yahiya Kandong, Omar Casma, Anthony Kasan, Akmad Salim and Jaypee Piang.
Due to the multiple graft conviction, Ampatuan was ordered by the Sandiganbayan to pay the provincial government of Maguindanao P22 million and P5,000 for each count of falsification.
The P22-million civil indemnity was equivalent to the amount of the involved anomalous infrastructure projects in Maguindanao, such as the farm-to-market roads and ghost purchases of fuel from a gasoline station that was allegedly owned by the former governor’s brother, Andal Ampatuan Jr.
No public bidding
According to the court, it was established that the gasoline station was chosen without having to undergo public bidding and that the fuel sourced from there was beyond its supply.
As for the road projects, the Sandiganbayan cited a statement from the Commission on Audit (COA) which said that the roads that were supposed to be rehabilitated or improved were found “either shorter than the reported accomplishments or that no signs of rehabilitation or improvement were appreciable.”
During the course of the trial, Ampatuan told the court that the COA’s ocular inspection “happened more than a year after the rehabilitation/improvement projects were declared completed” and that he claimed the roads had already deteriorated.
The court, however, pointed out that the COA’s findings were not referring to whether the roads were not in perfect condition, but rather “the findings [of the COA] touch on deficiencies in the implementation.”
“It is hard to believe that a portion of a road would remain visible while the rest would be lost without perceivable signs,” read the decision penned by Corpus-Mañalac, with concurrences of Associate Justices Rafael Lagos and Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega.
“That is incredulous. The road might have deteriorated over a span of more than a year but surely a significant portion, if not the entire length, would still be appreciable,” the decision read.