By Czarina Nicole Ong
The arraignment of former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Nur Misuari before the Sandiganbayan Third Division has been scheduled in the morning of September 21.
His arraignment will be for four out of the original six criminal charges that were filed against him. He was initially charged with three graft and three malversation through falsification charges in connection with the reportedly anomalous purchase of different educational packages and materials from 2000 to 2001.
However, the prosecution filed a motion to withdraw one graft and one falsification through falsification charge.
The prosecution maintained that it was correct in indicting Misuari last June 17, 2016 due to his reportedly anomalous transactions with CPR Publishing House and MBJ Learning Tools for the crimes of graft and malversation through falsification.
However, the same cannot be said of his charges involving White Orchids Printing and Publishing House because they can no longer secure the necessary evidence for it.
Misuari was accused of causing the payment of P31,000,000 to MBJ Learning Tools on December 21, 2000 for the purchase of Information Technology package even though it was not delivered.
Then on July 24, 2001, he was once again implicated for paying P46,261,250 to CPR for the procurement of Multi-Media Information Technology Package despite the fact that these goods were not delivered.
Finally on September 2001, Misuari paid P37,959,204 to White Orchids for the procurement of educational materials even though no such materials were actually delivered.
As for his malversation through falsification charges, he was accused of misappropriating the funds of the Department of Education (DepEd – ARMM) in the abovementioned amounts by means of falsifying requisition vouchers, purchase orders, sales invoice, disbursement vouchers, schedules of accounts payable, and other similar documents.
After the charges were filed, the Office of the Special Prosecutor requested the members of the audit team of the Commission on Audit (COA), who conducted the audit on the transaction with White Orchids, to produce documents relative to the said transaction.
In response, the COA audit team issued affidavits, letters, and certifications stating that the requested documents are not in their possession and they could no longer locate them.
A similar request was made to the Fact Finding Investigation Bureau of the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices (FFIB-MOLEO), but they cannot locate the documents as well.
The Ombudsman then directed the Regional Secretary of the DepEd ARMM to produce the required documents, but the same answer was given. Because of this, the prosecution has no choice but to withdraw the two charges.