The Sandiganbayan 5th Division has found ex-Maguindanao governor Datu Sajid Ampatuan and provincial budget officer Datu Ali Abpi guilty of graft and malversation of public funds over a total of P16 million ghost projects involving food supplies.
In the decision of the anti-graft court promulgated on May 5, 2023, Ampatuan and Abpi were each sentenced to imprisonment of 6 to 10 years for graft and 10 to 17 years for malversation.
The court also ordered the two to pay a fine of the amount malversed, a total of P16.317 million.
The court said in the decision that the amount was used for the supposed purchases of instant noodles, sardines, brown sugar, dried fish in “strikingly large quantities” from Henry Merchandising, which did not have any actual or physical store or warehouse where stocks could be found.
“In truth, no such deliveries were made since Henry Merchandising did not exist as an entity,” the court said in the decision penned by Associate Justice Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega, with the concurrence of Division Chairperson Rafael Lagos and Associate Justice Maryann Corpus-Mañalac.
In the informations filed by the Office of the Ombudsman, the supposed procurement of supplies occurred from February to September 2009.
There were 34 supposed emergency purchases with Ampatuan as the approving officer and Abpi as the one who obligated the funds despite incomplete documentation.
The court however acquitted Ampatuan and Abpi in their 34 falsification of public funds cases for the failure of the prosecution to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
The court said the prosecution failed to prove the element of malicious intent on the part of Ampatuan, noting that his signatures were either stamped or computer-generated.
“At the very least, all the prosecution was able to prove was that accused Sajid was grossly remiss in his duties to safeguard the public funds of the Province of Maguindanao, amounting gross inexcusable negligency,” the court said.
For the other accused indivduals who remain at large, former provincial accountant John Estelito Dollosa, Jr. and former provincial treasurer Osmeña Bandila, the court ordered that the cases against them be archived pending their arrest.