Sandiganbayan grants Sajid Ampatuan’s motion for voluntary suspension over P98M fertilizer scam

The Sandiganbayan has ordered the 90-day preventive suspension of Shariff Saydona Mustapha, Maguindanao, Mayor Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan, after he volunteered to serve it.

In a recent 4-page resolution, the court’s 3rd Division noted the preventive suspension of incumbent public officials facing valid graft charges was mandatory under Section 13 of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

By filing a motion for voluntary suspension, Ampatuan preempted the court’s usual practice of directing the accused to show cause why the graft law’s provision should not be applied in their case.

This came after the court on May 21, 2019 denied Ampatuan’s motion to quash the informations for graft and malversation through falsification.

“Based on the attending circumstances, the Court holds that the requisites for the preventive suspension of a public officer under Section 13 of [Republic Act Number] 3019 have been met,” read the resolution penned by Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang.

Ampatuan was indicted last year in connection with the fictitious purchases of palay, corn and fertilizers worth P98.25 million from Tamoni Enterprises by the Maguindanao provincial government in 2009, when he served as officer-in-charge governor.

He had faced numerous other corruption cases before the Sandiganbayan in connection to similar anomalous ghost purchases.

In March 2019, the court’s 4th Division convicted Ampatuan of graft and malversation in connection with the purchase of P35.74-million construction materials from another nonexistent lumberyard.

The court sentenced him to up to 52 years in prison and disqualified him from public office. However, the decision is currently on appeal and Ampatuan continues to occupy his seat.

Ampatuan’s family was accused of orchestrating the Maguindanao Massacre on November 23, 2009, one of the worst instances of election-related violence and press killings in history. Unlike his brothers, he was acquitted by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) in its landmark December 19, 2019 decision.

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