Ombudsman runs after Ampatuan Sr.’s P55-M unexplained wealth

Carolyn Bonquin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 26 2017 03:31 PM | Updated as of Jan 27 2017 08:29 PM

The late Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr (L) sits beside his lawyer Sigfrid Fortun as he attends the arraignment of his electoral sabotage case at a regional trial court in Pasay, suburban Manila on March 26, 2012. Noel Celis, AFP

MANILA (UPDATED) - The Ombudsman has filed a forfeiture case on the estate of the late Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan, Sr. and his wife Bai Laila Uy Ampatuan over unexplained assets amounting to P54.966 million.

The Ombudsman's investigation on the Ampatuan couple's wealth took off after its Lifestyle Check Panel filed cases involving graft, perjury, falsification, and violation of Republic Act 1379 or the Act Declaring Forfeiture of Ill-Gotten Wealth of Public Officers and Employees.

A lifestyle check showed that around P55 million in the Ampatuans' real estate properties with 19 titles in the cities of Cotabato and Davao were not declared in the former governor's statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALNs). The real estate properties were acquired in 1976, 1991, 1997, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, and 2009, respectively.
 
He only declared P19.6 million worth of real estate properties, including three house and lots, a farm, and a residential unit in Shariff Aguak, and an agricultural lot in Ampatuan.
 
Ampatuan also allegedly owned at least 35 motor vehicles worth P45.7 million, and failed to declare 25 vehicles worth P27.567 million.
 
The panel also found out that from 1997 to 2009, the former Maguindanao governor had 23 undeclared firearms worth P3.838 million.

Based on his income tax returns and SALNs, the Ampatuan couple had an unexplained wealth of P6.057 million in 2002 (Income: P310,733, Expenditures: P6.369 million); P2.158 million in 2003 (Income: P1.196 million, Expenditures: P3.354 million); P2.012 million in 2005 (Income: P1.560 million, Expenditures: P3.572 million); P612,829 in 2006 (Income: P1.560 million, Expenditures: P2.173 million); and P44.126 million in 2007 (Income: P1.608 million; Expenditures: P8.505 million), respectively.
 
In a counter-affidavit filed in April 11, 2011, Ampatuan claimed that he inherited several assets from his father, Hadji Aguak Ampatuan, who was an “affluent man in Magonoy (Sharrif Aguak)”. He claimed that he used his inheritance to establish his own businesses and farms.
 
Ampatuan denied owning warehouses and lots in Cotabato and Davao. He also insisted that the real estate in Marfori Heights Subdivision was under the name of his nephews Alunan Sakal Ampatuan and Al-Nhur Sakal Ampatuan. He added that he was unable to declare the assets purchased in 2009 because he was already detained in Davao.
 
Ampatuan also denied ownership of 35 vehicles. He claimed that “most of the vehicles he allegedly owns include those which are not registered in his name or those which had been sold or disposed of.”
 
Ampatuan admitted owning a caliber .45 pistol bought in 1999, but claimed that his other firearms were only given by his political allies and friends.
 
He and his wife also allegedly had "complete separation of property".
 
However, the Ombudsman junked his defense.
 
“There is clear and convincing evidence that Ampatuan accumulated wealth manifestly disproportionate to his lawful and legitimate income for 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, and 2007, and his family failed to lead modest lives appropriate to their positions and income due to their extravagant and ostentatious display of wealth,” the Ombudsman said.
 
The 74-year-old Ampatuan patriarch died of a heart attack in July 17, 2015 while battling liver cancer. He passed away while facing multiple murder charges for allegedly being behind the Maguindanao massacre in 2009.
 
The Ombudsman said Ampatuan’s death did not extinguish his liabilities “and the government is not precluded from recovering his unexplained wealth.”
 
Before sitting as Maguindanao governor from 2001 to 2010, Ampatuan was elected mayor of Shariff Aguak in 1988, and served as vice mayor from 1998 to 2001.