GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/14 Apr) – Government prosecutors have more than enough evidence to pursue multiple counts of plunder charges against suspended Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan and several other officials in connection with the uncovered irregularities in the handling of the region’s funds, President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III said here today.
The President said the government is inclined to pursue the plunder charges against Ampatuan as part of its ongoing efforts to usher in proper reforms to the impoverished region and help bring justice for the victims of the gruesome Maguindanao massacre.
He said the Department of Justice (DOJ) is currently studying various vital evidence against Ampatuan, who was earlier found by the Commission on Audit (COA) to have allegedly misused “not less than P1 billion” of ARMM’s funds in just about a year in office.
Mr. Aquino said COA has yet to complete its audit on the region’s funds and they expect to uncover more evidence of supposed fund misappropriations involving Ampatuan and other regional officials.
“This is just the start of the process. (I instructed) the DOJ to move faster in terms of the gathering of necessary evidence to facilitate the immediate filing of charges (against Ampatuan),” he said in a briefing after inspecting the P27-million biogas power generation facility here.
Ampatuan, who had been tagged as among the principal suspects in the November 23, 2009 Maguindanao massacre, started his first three-year term as ARMM governor in 2005 and was reelected for another term in 2008.
His second term as regional governor was cut short in December 2009 after he was arrested, along with his father (former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr.), brother Andal Jr. (former mayor of Datu Unsay town in Maguindanao) and several other relatives in connection with the massacre.
Witnesses said the Ampatuans had planned the infamous massacre in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman in Ampatuan Maguindanao that killed 58 people, including 32 journalists. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)