Sajid Ampatuan’s corruption cases now total 272
MANILA — The number of corruption cases filed against former Maguindanao officer-in-charge governor Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan now totals 272, after the Office of the Ombudsman filed a third batch of charges at the Sandiganbayan.
The recent batch of 75 cases filed Monday involves the purported release of P38,129,117 to the Abo Lumberyard and Construction Supply, which turned out to be “fictitious and/or nonexistent.”
Prosecutors accused the provincial officials of fabricating 73 disbursement vouchers, four of which were not numbered or dated, so they could “misappropriate into themselves” the public funds from May to September 2009.
The officials allegedly “made [it] appear” that the funds were used to buy lumber and various construction materials for the repair of schools around Maguindanao.
“In truth and in fact, the above accused fully well knew and which they are legally bound to disclose, that no such purchase was made as the purported supplier, Abo Lumberyard and Construction Supply, is a fictitious and non-existing entity,” the charge sheets read.
The 75 charges, which run 225 pages thick, consist of one count of violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (which prohibits public officials from causing undue injury to the government), one count of malversation of public funds, and 73 counts of falsification of public documents.
Charges were still filed against OIC provincial engineer Landap Guinaid, despite his being killed on July 28, 2016, in an ambush in the town 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.
Also named co-accused were provincial accountant John Estelito Dollosa Jr., provincial general services officer and bids and awards committee chairman Kasan Macapendeg, provincial treasurer Osmeña Bandila, and provincial engineer Datu Ali Abpi, Al Haj.
Prosecutors recommended that bail be set at a total of P1,822,000 for the 75 criminal cases. Witnesses include former Commission on Audit chairperson Maria Gracia Pulido-Tan.
A total of 161 charges were first filed in April over various anomalies between February and September 2009, months before the Maguindanao Massacre.
One-hundred forty-five (145) of these cases were filed for the misuse of P72.26 million meant for the repair of school buildings in the province; the funds were purportedly released to four lumber companies which, like Abo, turned out to be non-existent.
The remaining 16 involved the alleged fabrication of accomplishment reports for eight infrastructure projects valued at P23.36 million. After the statements of work accomplished were approved, the province then awarded P22.37-million worth of contracts to a gas station owned by Ampatuan’s brother Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr. These contracts for the supply of fuel and lubricants allegedly did not go through public bidding.
Earlier this month, a second set of 36 charges were filed over the release of P16.32 million purportedly to purchase food supplies from the non-existent Henry Merchandising.
Bail for these earlier charges totaled P4.886 million.
The Ampatuan camp on May 1 issued this statement through lawyer Gregorio Marquez: “We claim that all those contracts or procurements passed through the regular processes of procurement, bidding and audit.”
Marquez on May 16 later attributed the criminal charges to “political persecution” by the “yellows in power,” (referring to the presidency of Benigno Aquino III from 2010 to 2016 and the Liberal Party) and that the Ampatuans were once the strongest allies of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in Mindanao.
Ampatuan was one of the prime suspects in the Nov. 23, 2009 Maguindanao massacre, where 58 persons, including 32 media workers, were killed in one of the worst election-related violence and press killings in history.
He is out of detention on an P11.6-million bond because evidence against him was not strong enough to deny him the right to bail. He tried to run for mayor of the provincial capital of Shariff Aguak in May 2016, but lost. SFM/rga
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