Sandiganbayan: 'Sufficient' evidence vs Sajid Ampatuan in 136 cases
MANILA, Philippines – The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan said the evidence presented by the prosecution in 136 cases against former Maguindanao governor Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan was "sufficient" to secure his conviction.
"The Court finds that, if unrebutted, the prosecution evidence is sufficient to support a verdict of guilt," the Sandiganbayan's 6th Division said in its resolution.
The 6th Division denied Ampatuan's motion for leave to file demurrer to evidence, a pleading that says the prosecution's evidence is weak enough to warrant outright dismissal of the case.
Ampatuan had been charged with 4 counts each of graft and malversation of public funds, and 137 counts of falsification of public documents. The cases stem from fraudulent procurement in relation to public works projects in Mindanao in 2009.
An audit report pointed to the Maguindanao provincial government's procurement of P72.256 million worth of construction materials in 2009 as bogus as the suppliers – Usman Lumberyard and Construction Supply, Andong Lumberyard and Construction, Nasser Lumberyard and Construction Supply, and Ismael Lumberyard and Construction Supply – did not exist.
Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Sarah Jane Fernandez, 6th Division chairperson, penned the resolution. Associate Justices Karl Miranda and Kevin Narce Vivero concurred.
The court granted Ampatuan's motion for demurrer of evidence only on 9 counts of falsification of public documents, where the defense showed that Ampatuan's signature was not on support documents for those cases.
The Sandiganbayan said Ampatuan still has the right to file his demurrer to evidence, though without leave of court.
The absence of prior leave of court waives the right of the accused to present evidence and, should his demurrer be denied, the cases to be judged would be done solely on the basis of evidence given by prosecutors.
Should Ampatuan decide against filing a demurrer to evidence, he and his legal team were ordered to start presenting their evidence early Thursday afternoon, October 11.
Ampatuan's co-defendants were provincial treasurer Osmeña Bandila, provincial accountant John Dollosa Jr, general services office chief and Bids and Awards Committee chairman Kasan Macapendeg, provincial administrator Norie Unas, and provincial engineers Datu Ali Abpi, Al Haj, and Landap Guinaid.
Guinaid was said to have been killed in an ambush in Cotabato City in July 2017. He remains a co-accused though, pending a submission in court of proof of his death. – Rappler.com