COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 10 May ) – Former Maguindanao governor Sajid Ampatuan was recently sentenced to serve a jail term of up to 28 years by the Sandiganbayan, which found him guilty of graft and malversation over “ghost purchases” of emergency food aid in 2009.
In 2020, Sajid, one of the sons of the late Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan, Sr., was acquitted in the controversial 2009 Ampatuan Massacre case. Sajid’s other siblings – Zaldy, former governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao; Andal, Jr., former mayor of Datu Unsay; and, Anwar, Sr., former mayor of Shariff Aguak – were convicted in the gruesome carnage that killed 58 people, including 32 media workers. They appealed the verdict.
In a decision released May 5, the Sandiganbayan convicted Sajid and former Maguindanao provincial budget officer Datu Ali Abpi in connection with the dubious purchase of P16.3 million worth of emergency food supplies.
The anti-graft court said Sajid, who assumed as acting governor in 2009, and other provincial officials had transacted without conducting a bidding to a non-existent supplier, Henry Merchandising, for the purchase of instant noodles, sardines, brown sugar and dried fish in large amounts from February to September 2009.
“Henry Merchandising appeared to be inexistent since it was not issued a business permit and no records of returns (were) found in the office of (the) Bureau of Internal Revenue,” the Sandiganbayan said.
It added that “all the transactions were awarded without public bidding because the accused public officials resorted to negotiated procurement without any document submitted under the government procurement act.”
Sajid and Abpi were each sentenced to imprisonment of six to 10 years for graft and 10 to 18 years for malversation.
However, they were acquitted in 34 counts of falsification for lack of evidence.
In the ruling, the Sandiganbayan stressed that ”as OlC (officer-in-charge) – governor of the province, it is the responsibility of Sajid Ampatuan to make sure that public funds of the province were disbursed properly.”
The cases against the other accused who remained at large – former provincial accountant John Estelito Dollosa Jr. and former provincial treasurer Osmeña Bandila – were archived since they were not arraigned.
Two other accused, former provincial administrator Norie Unas and former OIC of the provincial engineer’s office Landap Guinaid, have died.
Earlier this year, Sajid was also convicted in the ghost purchase of palay (unhusked rice), corn seeds and fertilizers worth PHP98.2 million in 2009.
He was 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.
They have been in hiding. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera / MindaNews)