FORMER Maguindanao Gov. Sajid Islam Ampatuan and former provincial engineer Datuali Abpi have failed to persuade the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division to reverse its March 22, 2019 decision convicting them of graft and malversation.
In a 14-page resolution penned by Associate Justice Bayani H. Jacinto, the anti-graft court affirmed its finding that the defendants were guilty of conspiracy to defraud the government through ghost procurement of construction materials totaling P35.74 million in 2009.
Prosecutors presented evidence that the provincial government made 73 emergency purchases of lumber and plywood worth P35.747 million all from only one supplier – Abo Lumberyard –in a span of nine months.
The procurement was supposedly intended for the repair of unspecified school buildings in the province. However, Abo Lumberyard proved to be non-existent.
“(T)he prosecution’s evidence is enough to sustain the accused-movants’ conviction on account of their collective gross inexcusable negligence,” the Sandiganbayan ruled. Associate Justices Alex L. Quiroz and Reynaldo P. Cruz concurred with the decision.
Ampatuan and Abpi had assailed the court’s decision sentencing them to eight to 12 years in jail for the graft case and reclusion perpetua for the malversation charge. They were also told to repay the full P35,740,493 equivalent to the amount malversed.
In addition, Ampatuan was pronounced guilty in 63 counts of falsification of public documents each punishable by six to eight months in jail.
In his appeal, Ampatuan claimed there was scant proof that he conspired with his co-defendants to defraud the provincial government since he merely relied on his subordinates who were the ones who did all the groundwork for the transactions.
The court, however, said the claim is not worthy of belief since the governor signed all the purchase orders even if such details as delivery dates and details of delivery were left out.
Purchase requests and purchase orders also did not indicate the names of the schools needing repairs which made auditing difficult.
“These omissions cannot simply be brushed aside since said details are determinative of when the supplier’s obligation to deliver becomes due,” the court said.
Ampatuan’s had also objected to the admission of the Commission on Audit-Special Audit Office report for allegedly being hearsay.