MANILA- Maguindanao massacre suspects and brothers Datu Andal and Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan pleaded not guilty to their multi-million peso graft and falsification cases during their arraignment at the Sandiganbayan 5th Division Tuesday.
The two were arraigned along with 3 engineers in connection with questionable infrastructure projects they entered into.
The brothers pleaded not guilty to 8 counts of graft for the purchase of fuel and lubricants by Datu Sajid, during his term as Maguindanao governor, from his brother Datu Andal who owned a gasoline station in Shariff Aguak town.
The purchase of the fuel products worth P22.37 million from May to August 2009 allegedly pushed through without competitive public bidding.
Their co-accused, former provincial accountant John Estelito Dollosa Jr., former provincial engineer Landap Guinaid and provincial treasurer Osman Bandilla were not arraigned since they are still at-large.
Sajid also pleaded not guilty to 7 counts of falsification of public documents for his untruthful Statement of Work Accomplished totaling to P20.61 million.
Project engineers Yahiya Kandong, Omar Camsa, Anthony Kasan, Akmad Salim and Jaypee Piang, who were involved in the the projects, also pleaded not guilty. Project engineer Pendi Abpet who was involved in one of the falsified project documents is at-large.
Before the arraignment, the laywer of Datu Andal tried for a re-scheduling of the arraignment because of their pending Urgent Omnibus Motion for Re-investigation that was outrightly denied by 5th Division Chair Associate Justice Efren Lagos who was visibly infuriated.
Lagos denied the motion in open court after noting that the prosecution submitted a consolidated counter-affidavit.
"Do you [know] how much the government is spending for his escorts?" Lagos asked the lawyer of Datu Andal, noting that the government incurs additional expenses to transport Datu Andal from his detention cell.
Asked for comments in their cases, the two brothers did not respond to the questions of the media after the arraignment.
"We will just thresh out the all the details in the course of the proceedings," Datu Sajid lawyer Reena Collado said.