MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan issued a warrant of arrest against former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) governor Nur Misuari over graft and malversation charges arising from multimillion-peso ghost projects.
The warrant, dated August 31, had been cascaded to law enforcement authorities to be served on Misuari, the Sandiganbayan’s 3rd Division confirmed on Wednesday, September 6.
“We respect the process but sad because [the] Philippines and [the] Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) have agreements,” Emmanuel Fontanilla, Misuari’s spokesman, said in a text message.
Malacañang said it will leave it up to Misuari to defend himself. Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said it cannot be established at this point ifMisuari’s arrest will effect the peace process.
“I cannot categorically say that it will not have any effect. But at this stage, it will be best if he addressed [this] directly himself,” Abella said during a news briefing on Tuesday.
Asked whether Misuari has posted or will post bail, Fontanilla said he “cannot comment at this time.”
“It’s complicated, not only a matter of bail,” Fontanilla said.
Bail is set at P460,000 for two counts of graft and two counts of malversation through falsification of documents. Separate charges of one count each of graft and malversation through falsification are still pending as the court is still in the process of establishing probable cause to issue a warrant of arrest in this regard.
Misuari is the leader of the MNLF faction which seized parts of Zamboanga City in 2013. He was charged with rebellion and crimes against humanity but President Rodrigo Duterte granted him temporary freedom so he could participate in the peace process.
His temporary freedom has been extended until November 16, 2017.
The latest arrest warrant stemmed from charges over the purchase of P115 million worth of educational materials when Misuari was ARMM governor. The ARMM did not receive the materials.
The court also denied the appeals of Misuari’s co-accused – Leogivilda Cinches, former director of the Department of Education-ARMM; and Nader Macagaan, former resident auditor of DepEd-ARMM.
The ARMM, under Misuari, carried out the questionable purchases from 2000 to 2001, involving the purchase of an information technology package, multimedia information technology package, and textbooks.
Cinches said the charges against her should be dismissed because her signatures might have been forged. She also said she was only performing her ministerial duty to sign the documents which were prepared by her subordinates.
“If she would be required to examine every detail of the alleged irregular transactions prior to approving the Lists of Due and Demandable Accounts and Schedules of Accounts Payable, she would have to devote all her time and energy for the same,” Cinches said.
Macagaan, for his part, said he could not be charged because he is not a member of the DepEd Bids and Awards Committee (BAC).
“He participated in the procurement process in the capacity of an observer,” Macagaan said, citing the procurement law.
Macagaan also tried to invoke his right against inordinate delay, saying the Commission on Audit (COA) submitted its report to the Office of the Ombudsman as early as 2007. Charges were filed before the Sandiganbayan in May 2017, or 10 years later.
According to the court, while COA submitted a report in 2007, the preliminary investigation only lasted one year and 11 months.
As for the other arguments, the court said they are matters that will be properly threshed out during trial.
The other accused are: Pangalian Maniri, former chief accountant of DepEd-ARMM; Sittie Aisa Usman, former supply officer of DepEd-ARMM; and Alladin Usi, former accountant of DepEd-ARMM. – Rappler.com