Sandiganbayan affirms conviction of Ampatuan in fertilizer graft case

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 8) -- The Sandiganbayan has affirmed its decision finding former Maguindanao governor Sajid Islam Ampatuan guilty of graft and malversation over ghost purchases of seeds and fertilizers worth over ₱98 million in 2009.

In its decision dated June 7, the anti-graft court’s Third Division said Ampatuan’s motion for reconsideration lacks merit.

The motion for reconsideration filed by Ampatuan’s co-accused former provincial agriculturist Mosibicak Guiabel was denied as well.

“Much of the arguments raised by both accused-movants are a mere rehash of the issues and positions earlier raised by them which were already passed upon, duly considered and resolved by this Court,” the anti-graft court said in its decision.

In his appeal, Ampatuan argued state prosecutors failed to establish that he favored a particular supplier for the project.

However, the court maintained that Ampatuan committed graft through gross inexcusable negligence.

“There was a clear and deliberate failure on the part of accused-movant Ampatuan to exercise oversight powers and control in the implementation of the project until its ultimate completion, especially considering the amount of public funds involved,” the court stated.

Ampatuan also insisted that his signatures on disbursement vouchers, purchase requests, and orders submitted by the prosecution were forged.

However, the Sandiganbayan said sample signatures provided by Ampatuan did not come from issuing government agencies as required by court rules.

“Also, only two of the documents subjected to examination were from 2009, while the rest were dated 2015 onwards, contrary to the acceptable five-year-before and five-year-after practice,” the court said.

Ampatuan was sentenced to eight to 12 years imprisonment for graft and another 40 years maximum for the malversation charge.

The Ombudsman accused Ampatuan and Guiabel of working together to make it appear palay, corn seeds, and fertilizers had been delivered for an agricultural project.

Ampatuan is facing other convictions for various anomalous transactions during his time as governor.