Sandigan orders Misuari’s arrest over P115-M textbook scam
The Sandiganbayan has ordered the arrest of Nur Misuari, former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) governor and founder of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), in connection with the allegedly anomalous purchase of P115.2 million in educational materials in 2000 and 2001.
In a resolution, the anti-graft court Third Division found probable cause to hold Misuari on trial and his co-accused over the so-called “textbook scam.”
The court found no merit in the defense of respondents that their cases should be dismissed for inordinate delay by the Ombudsman.
The court said there was no unreasonable delay because the case involved voluminous documents, and that the period of one year and 11 months that it took the Ombudsman for preliminary investigation proper “cannot be said to be unreasonable.”
“From an examination of the records, it can be gleaned that the present cases are part of what is known as the ‘textbook scam,’ which involves transactions not only those subject to these present cases, but also other related transactions. Due to the number of transactions, the investigation, which entailed scrutinizing voluminous records and determining who among the numerous persons involved should be held liable, necessarily took some time,” the court said.
“(T)he Court finds that there is probable cause for the issuance of warrants of arrest against the accused,” it added.
The Office of the Special Prosecutor under the Ombudsman filed three counts of malversation of public funds through falsification and three counts of violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act against Misuari before the Sandiganbayan.
The prosecutors accused Misuari and his co-accused for misusing funds of the Department of Education-ARMM by falsifying requisition and issuing a voucher, purchase order, sales invoice, disbursement voucher, schedule of accounts payable, list of due and demandable accounts payable-external creditors, to make it appear a procurement was made.
But prosecutors said the following goods were not delivered, causing undue advantage to the contractors and causing undue injury to government:
- multimedia information technology package worth P46,261,250 ordered from CPR Publishing House of Caloocan City
- various educational materials worth P37,959,204 ordered from White Orchids Printing and Publishing House
- information technology package worth P31 million from MBJ Learning Tools of Caloocan City
In ordering the filing of criminal charges against Misuari, the Ombudsman cited the findings of the Commission on Audit (COA) that the payment to five suppliers of textbooks and educational materials were irregular and were conducted without public bidding.
The Ombudsman cited the following flagrant red flags in the procurement:
- lack of public bidding:
- undated and unnumbered procurement documents;
- absence of contracts, inventory and distribution lists;
- undue haste in the purchase of goods showing the rigged bidding; and,
- non-compliance with eligibility requirements by the suppliers.
“The Office finds probable cause that Misuari [and respondents] conspired with one another while discharging their official functions, [acting] with manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence when they conspired to rig the procurement,” the Ombudsman said.
Named as co-accused are former Department of Education ARMM executives Director Leovigilda Cinches, Supply Officer Sittie Aisa Usman, Accountant Alladin Usi, Chief Accountant Pangalian Maniri, and COA Auditor Nader Macagaan.
The prosecutors also filed charges against suppliers Lolita Sambeli of White Orchids and Cristeta Ramirez of CPR Publishing.
Misuari has a standing warrant of arrest for rebellion and violation of Republic Act 9851, or the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and Other Crimes Against Humanity, for leading the MNLF’s deadly siege in Zamboanga city in 2013 that left 200 dead.
The Department of Justice, however, has expressed interest in lifting Misuari’s arrest warrant in a bid to restart stalled peace talks with the MNLF.
The Pasig Regional Trial court in November last year suspended Misuari’s arrest warrant for six months after President Rodrigo Duterte extended his hand to talk peace with Misuari. The court extended the suspension for another six months. CBB
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