MANILA, Philippines – Brothers Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan and Andal Ampatuan Jr n Tuesday, August 15, pleaded not guilty to corruption charges filed against them in connection to ghost construction projects in Maguindanao in 2009.
Sajid and Andal pleaded not guilty before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan's Fifth Division, which is handling 8 counts of graft each against Andal and Sajid, and another 8 counts of falsification of public documents against Sajid.
Sajid posted bail of P432,000 before the Sandiganbayan on connection with the cases.
The brothers had appealed to postpone their arraignment due to motions for reinvestigation but on Tuesday, the Fifth Division proceeded with the arraignment.
"Do you know how much the government is spending for his escorts?" said Associate Justice Rafael Lagos, the Sandiganbayan division chair, in denying the motion to postpone the arraignment.
Andal Jr remains in jail over the 2009 Maguindanao massacre and has to be escorted to court proceedings. Sajid was freed in 2015 after he was granted bail.
Sajid faces the bulk of the charges as the approving authority in 2009, when he was Maguindanao governor. He allegedly awarded millions worth of contracts to fake suppliers.
One supplier was not fake. Sajid hired Andal's Petron branch to supply the fuel and lubricant needs of 8 renovation projects, but Ombudsman investigators discovered that the contracts were awarded without public bidding, and that no project was implemented.
Andal Jr was charged with graft as he was a supplier for the 8 renovation projects, while Sajid was charged with multiple counts of graft, malversation, and falsification of documents.
In total, the fake construction projects amounted to P75 million, while the bogus food purchases amounted to P16 million.
Sajid had posted bail of P3.5 million bail for the 145 remaining counts of corruption in connection to the ghost construction projects pending before the Sandiganbayan's Sixth Division. He has another 36 counts pending for the fake food purchases.
Sajid and Andal Jr are both suspects in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre where 58 people were killed, making it the worst case of election-related violence in the country. The patriarch of the family, Maguindanao massacre principal suspect Andal Ampatuan Sr, died in 2015.