Sajid Ampatuan faces 36 more charges over P16.3-M food scam
Vince F. Nonato
This time, the Office of the Ombudsman formally charged Ampatuan and six others over the release of P16,317,559 to a food supplier, Henry Merchandising, which turned out to be “fictitious and/or nonexistent.”
This brings to 197 the total number of charges filed over the past two months against Ampatuan, a prime suspect in the Maguindanao Massacre who is out on bail.
Prosecutors accused Ampatuan of conspiring with provincial officials to “appropriate for themselves” the said public funds from Feb. 2, 2009 to Sept. 30, 2009.
They allegedly made untruthful statements in 34 disbursement vouchers to make it appear that the funds were being paid purportedly for the purchase of various food supplies.
“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 Henry Merchandising is a fictitious and non-existing entity,” the charge sheets read.
The 36 charges, which run 142 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 34 counts of falsification of public documents.
Charges were still filed against OIC provincial engineer Landap Guinaid, despite being killed last July 28 in an ambush in the provincial capital 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 coaccused 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 P886,000 for the 36 criminal cases. Witnesses include former Commission on Audit chairperson Maria Gracia Pulido-Tan.
Just this April, state prosecutors have slapped Ampatuan with a total of 161 charges over various anomalies between February and September 2009, months before the Maguindanao Massacre.
145 of these cases were filed over 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 Henry Merchandising, turned out to be nonexistent too.
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.
The Ampatuan camp previously 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.”
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 incidents 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. #