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Ampatuan kin, Maguindanao exec guilty in 'ghost' food purchases

BANGSAMORO NEWS UPDATES • 20:00 PM Mon May 8, 2023
Benjamin Pulta/PNA

MANILA – The Sandiganbayan has sentenced former Maguindanao governor Datu Sajid Ampatuan and former provincial budget officer Datuali Abpi to up to 28 years after finding them guilty of graft and malversation in connection with “ghost” purchases of emergency food supplies worth PHP16.3 million in 2009.

The court said the duo must return the amount, which was paid to non-existent supplier Henry Merchandising from February to September 2009, for the purchase of instant noodles, sardines, brown sugar, and dried fish in “strikingly large quantities.”

They were each sentenced to imprisonment of six to 10 years for graft and 10 to 18 years for malversation, but were acquitted in 34 counts of falsification.

“The accused conspired with each other to make it appear that Henry Merchandising was a qualified supplier of various food supplies. It delivered such goods to the province and the province disbursed public funds to pay for such goods. In truth, no such deliveries were made since Henry Merchandising did not exist as an entity,” the Sandiganbayan said in its May 5 ruling made public on Monday.

“As OlC (officer-in-charge) - governor of the province, it was accused Sajid's job and responsibility to make sure that public funds of the province were disbursed properly. This Court is convinced that he failed to do so, and with such omission, he acted with evident bad faith, manifest partiality and/or gross inexcusable negligence in the performance of his duties,” the Sandiganbayan added.

The anti-graft court said Ampatuan did not present any other documentary evidence that could give a semblance of legitimacy to the transactions and failed to prove that the signatures appearing on the subject vouchers are not his.

The cases against the other accused who remained at large, former provincial accountant John Estelito Dollosa Jr. and former provincial treasurer Osmeña Bandila, are archived pending their arrest.

Two other accused, former provincial administrator Norie Unas and former officer-in-charge of the provincial engineer’s office Landap Guinaid, have died.

Ampatuan had been previously convicted over ghost purchases of palay (unhusked rice), corn seeds, and fertilizers worth PHP98.2 million in 2009 and sentenced to up to 40 years for malversation and another eight to 12 years for graft; and along with Abpi, for 144 cases in connection with anomalous transactions the provincial government entered into in 2009 and was sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for each count of graft and a maximum of 18 years for each count of malversation of public funds.

The Sandiganbayan ordered Ampatuan’s arrest in January after he failed to attend the promulgation of the decision on the 2009 cases. (PNA)

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