Sandiganbayan suspends Mayor Ampatuan for 90 days

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    THE Sandiganbayan Sixth Division has imposed a 90-day suspension against former Maguindanao governor Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan, who is now serving as municipal mayor of Shariff Saydona Mustapha in the same province.

    Associate Justices Sarah Jane T. Fernandez, Karl B. Miranda, and Kevin Narce B. Vivero ordered the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to enforce the suspension and to furnish the court with the report on actions taken within 15 days.

    The directive swept aside Ampatuan’s arguments that suspending him at this point of the proceedings would serve no logical purpose since he is no longer the provincial governor of Maguindanao, the prosecution has already completed its presentation of evidence, and his constituents would be deprived of his services as an elected official.

    Citing Section 13 of RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, the Sandiganbayan said that suspension of a public official charged with graft or any offense involving fraud upon government or upon public funds becomes mandatory once the information is found to be valid.

    Ampatuan is charged with four counts of graft, four counts of malversation of public funds, and 137 counts of falsification of public documents.

    Except for nine of the falsification cases, the court has upheld the strength of government evidence saying “if unrebutted, the prosecution evidence 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, provincial engineer Datu Ali Abpi, Al Haj, and provincial engineer 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 said the provincial government’s procurement of P72.256 million worth of construction materials in 2009 for the construction and repair of public school buildings were fraudulent.

    They said the funds were simply pocketed by the defendants since all four suppliers identified did not exist. These were Usman Lumberyard and Construction Supply, Andong Lumberyard and Construction, Nasser Lumberyard and Construction Supply, and Ismael Lumberyard and Construction Supply.