Sajid Ampatuan charged 161 times for Maguindanao ghost projects
MANILA — Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan, one of the suspects in the Maguindanao massacre, is facing 161 criminal charges at the Sandiganbayan for various “ghost” projects and procurement anomalies when he was officer-in-charge of the province in 2009.
The government lost roughly P95.62 million in the road and school projects which were not implemented as the funds earmarked for materials were allegedly misused.
The charges filed by Ombudsman prosecutors, which run 483 pages, stated the irregularities took place between February and September 2009. This was only a few months before the Ampatuan clan was accused of spearheading the massacre of 58 people, including 32 journalists, on Nov. 23, 2009.
In the Sandiganbayan, officer-in-charge provincial engineer Landap Guinaid was named co-accused in all of the 161 cases docketed SB-17-CRM-762 to SB-17-CRM-922. Somehow, he was still charged despite being killed last July 28 in an ambush in the provincial capital of Shariff Aguak.
Another major defendant is former provincial administrator Norie Unas, the star witness in the electoral sabotage case against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Unas is implicated in 145 of the cases against Ampatuan.
Gas deals for Andal
The first set of 16 charges dealt with the fabrication of statements of work accomplished (SWAs) for eight unimplemented infrastructure projects valued at P23.36 million.
After the SWAs were approved from March to August 2009, the provincial government proceeded to award P22.37-million worth of contracts to a gas station owned by Ampatuan’s brother Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr.
The contracts for the supply of fuel and lubricants purportedly for the implementation of the eight projects were all awarded to the Shariff Aguak Petron Station without the required public bidding. Prosecutors said this caused undue injury to the Maguindanao government and was to “the detriment of public service.”
Projects affected by these anomalies included the P3.68-million project for the improvement of the Shariff Aguak municipal hall site and seven road rehabilitation projects in the capital and the towns of Rajah Buayan, Datu Saudi Ampatuan and Datu Piang.
The said cases—consisting of eight counts each of falsification of public documents and violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act—were raffled off to the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division. Andal, currently detained as the prime suspect in the Maguindanao massacre, was indicted in the graft cases as a private individual.
Besides Ampatuan, Guinaid and Andal Ampatuan Jr., provincial accountant John Estelito Dollosa Jr. and provincial treasurer Osmeña Bandilla were also accused in the eight graft cases.
Ampatuan and Guinaid’s coaccused in the falsification cases were project engineers Yahiya Kandong and Pendi Abpet (two counts each), and project engineers Omar Camsa, Anthony Kasan, Akmad Salim and Jaypee Piang (one count each).
Fake lumber companies
The second set of 145 charges concerned the misappropriation of P72.26 million meant for the repair of school buildings in the province.
Prosecutors said the provincial officials falsified the disbursement vouchers for the releases and made it appear that the funds were paid to four lumber companies that turned out to be “fictitious and/or non-existent.”
Most of the questioned releases purportedly went to Usman Lumberyard and Construction Supply. From February to September 2009, it supposedly received P26.57 million through 54 of the 137 anomalous disbursement vouchers.
The other allegedly fake companies were the Andong Lumberyard and Construction Supply, Nasser Lumberyard and Construction Supply, and Ismael Lumberyard and Construction Supply, which supposedly received P16.99 million, P16.48 million, and P12.22 million from July to September 2009.
The prosecution said the provincial officials “fully knew that no such purchase was made as the purported supplier… is fictitious and/or non-existent.”
By making untruthful statements in the disbursement vouchers and supporting documents, the officials allegedly made it appear that the amounts were paid to the dubious suppliers. Thus, they were accused of conspiring to “willfully, unlawfully and feloniously take, misappropriate or appropriate into themselves” the said funds.
The Sandiganbayan Sixth Division is set to handle this batch consisting of 137 counts of falsification, four of malversation of public funds, and four of violation of Section 3(e) of the graft law.
Ampatuan and Guinaid’s co-accused for these 145 cases were Dollosa and Bandilla, as well as provincial general services officer and bids and awards committee chairman Kasan Macapendeg, provincial administrator Norie Unas, and provincial engineer Datu Ali Abpi, Al Haj.
Although he faces trial for murder, Ampatuan has been released from detention on an P11.6-million bond because evidence was not strong enough to deny him the right to bail. To keep his temporary liberty
amid the recent Sandiganbayan charges, he would have to post a total
of P4 million in bail as recommended by prosecutors. SFM/rga
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.