The Sandiganbayan has allowed the withdrawal of the charge of failure to render accounts filed against former Maguindanao Gov. Datu Sajid Islam Uy Ampatuan and several others in connection with the implementation of the P500 million farm-to-market roads in 2009.
On top of the failure to render accounts, Ampatuan, former provincial treasurer Osmeña Bandila, provincial accountant John Estelito Dollosa, and state auditor Danny Calib were also charged with graft and malversation.
In filing the charges against them, the prosecution cited findings by the Commission on Audit (COA) that “the roads were in bad condition and far shorter than the reported lengths, and the reported accomplishments were no longer visible, are sufficient proof to engender a well-founded belief that public funds were misappropriated for respondents Ampatuan, Bandila, Dollosa and Calib’s own private use or benefit.”
The prosecution filed a motion to withdraw the charge of failure to render accounts. It told the court that the illegal receipt of cash advances is already deemed included in cases of graft and malversation and that failure to render accounts under Article 218 of the Revised Penal Code was not applicable to the transactions that are subject of the charges.
“The cash advances were prohibited by law, hence, charging accused Ampatuan and Bandila with violation of Article 218 and focusing on their failure to render accounts may be tantamount to conceding the regularity, validity, or legitimacy of the grant of cash advances to them,” the prosecution said.
It also said the amendment of charges is allowed by Rule 110, Section 14 of the Rules on Criminal Procedure.
In granting the prosecution’s plea, the Sandiganbayan, in a resolution issued last July 19, said:
“The rule provides that the prosecution is given the right to amend the information, regardless of its nature, so long as the amendment is sought before the accused enters his plea….”
The resolution was written by Associate Justice Ronald B. Moreno with the concurrence of Presiding Justice Amparo M. Cabotaje-Tang and Associate Justice Bernelito R. Fernandez.