Sandiganbayan: 90-day suspension against Sajid Ampatuan stays

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    FORMER Maguindanao governor and now Shariff Saydona Mustapha Mayor Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan has failed to win a reversal of the Sandiganbayan order placing him under preventive suspension for 90 days.

    Denying Ampatuan’s motion for reconsideration, the Sandiganbayan Sixth Division saw no reason to recall the suspension order it issued on October 1, 2019.
    Ampatuan stands charged with four counts of graft, four counts of malversation of public funds, and 137 counts of falsification of public documents.

    The anti-graft court had earlier held that government evidence against the local executive “if unrebutted …is sufficient to support a verdict of guilt.”

    Charged together with Ampatuan were former provincial accountant John Dollosa Jr., provincial treasurer Osmeña Bandila, general services office chief and Bids and Awards Committee chairman Kasan Macapendeg, provincial administrator Norie Unas, and provincial engineers Datu Ali Abpi, Al Haj, and Landap Guinaid.

    Guinaid was reported killed in an ambush in Cotabato City in July last year but was still included as a co-accused pending submission in court of proof of his death.

    Prosecutors have alleged that the provincial government’s procurement of P72.256 million worth of construction materials in 2009 for the construction and repair of public school buildings was fraudulent.

    Investigators said the funds were simply pocketed by the defendants since all four suppliers identified were found to be non-existent. These were Usman Lumberyard and Construction Supply, Andong Lumberyard and Construction, Nasser Lumberyard and Construction Supply, and Ismael Lumberyard and Construction Supply.

    In his appeal to the suspension order, Ampatuan argued that the cases against him are “inherently and substantially defective” since he was denied the opportunity to participate in the preliminary investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman.

    The Sandigabayan however swept aside the defense contention as “nothing but an afterthought” which is being raised only at this stage of the proceedings.

    “An examination of the records would show that during the preliminary investigation, the Office of the Ombudsman afforded the respondents the opportunity to file their counter-affidavits. Among the respondents who filed their counter-affidavit was accused Ampatuan,” the court noted.

    Likewise, the Consolidated Joint Counter-Affidavit of respondents was also signed by the accused.

    “The Court reiterates its ruling in the assailed resolution that all the requisites for suspension pendente lite have been met,” the Sandiganbayan said.