File photo by Rolex dela Pena/EPA
MANILA, Philippines – The Court of Appeals (CA) affirmed the dismissal of massacre suspect Zaldy Ampatuan which found him guilty of dishonesty and grave misconduct in connection with his wealth.
The CA's Fourteenth Division upheld the 2015 ruling of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales which dismissed Ampatuan as governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Ampatuan had been suspended as governor of ARMM since 2009 when he was implicated as one of the masterminds of the Maguindanao massacre that left 58 people, most of them journalists, dead.
Ampatuan had also been in jail since 2009, so the Ombudsman's dismissal in 2015 appears moot. But the dismissal also carries the effect of perpetual disqualification from office and the fine of a year's worth of his salary as governor.
And because the administrative charge is dishonesty in declaring his true wealth, the CA's affirmation can later be used as basis if the government wants to declare the wealth-ill gotten and seek to forfeit it.
It was the route taken by the Ombudsman in the case of Zaldy's father, the late Andal Ampatuan Sr. As it did with Zaldy, the Ombudsman conducted a lifestyle check on Andal Sr, which found P68,956,762 worth of real properties not declared in his Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN).
According to the 2015 dismissal order of the Ombudsman, Zaldy "willfully failed" to declare P43.73 million worth of wealth in SALNs from 2000 to 2009.
Zaldy filed a motion for reinvestigation in September 2015 but Morales denied it. Failing at the Ombudsman level, Zaldy elevated the case to the CA where he claimed he was denied due process.
In its latest resolution, CA said Zaldy was given the chance to properly defend himself. CA said Zaldy did not submit position papers to counter the Ombudsman's computation, but instead filed motions contesting the order, a move seen by the appellate court as mere delaying tactics.
“In this case, the evidence presented by the respondent (lifestyle check panel) well supports the findings of the Office of the Ombudsman that petitioner did not only fail to disclose all his and his wife’s assets but also failed to provide an explanation as to how he and/or his wife acquired assets,” the CA said.
The court's resolution was penned by Associate Justice Henri Jean Paul Inting with concurrences from Associate Justices Ramon Garcia and Lencia Dimagiba.
The Maguindanao massacre remains on trial after nearly 8 years. – Rappler.com