Key Maguindanao massacre suspect embezzled P500 million DAR funds? PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 26 May 2015 09:07

Peace activists want the Ombudsman to expedite its probe on the alleged mishandling of P500 million worth of agrarian reform projects by detained former Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. in Maguindanao.

The agrarian reform package was intended for the construction of new thoroughfares and rehabilitation of existing farm-to-market roads in isolated agricultural areas in Maguindanao.

Most of the more than 20 road projects now in question were supposedly constructed in the towns of Shariff Aguak, Ampatuan, Rajah Buayan, Datu Abdullah Sangki and Mamasapano, all in the second district of Maguindanao.

Ampatuan and his two sons, Zaldy and Andal Jr., and more than a dozen other relatives are now incarcerated, being prosecuted for their alleged involvement in the infamous Nov. 23, 2009 Maguindanao massacre, the country’s worst election-related violence.

The P500 million was released by the central office of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to Ampatuan several months before the massacre where 58 people were killed—more than half of them members of the press.

On March 12, 2015, Ombudsman official Maria Olivia Elena Roxas ordered a group of former provincial officials under Ampatuan to cooperate in the investigation on whether the road projects were implemented or not.

“The directive for them to respond to the probe initiative of the Ombudsman was issued on March 12 yet and nothing much had happened since,” said a senior official of a peace advocacy bloc operating in Maguindanao.

The five beneficiary-towns were among at least a dozen municipalities that once comprised the so-called “domicile principality” of the Ampatuan clan, where members ruled with impunity, intolerant of political opposition.

Key sources from the Ombudsman, sighting initial findings, said there were indications that the P500 million grant from the central office of the DAR was embezzled by the former Maguindanao governor.

The funds for the DAR’s 2009 road projects in the province Ampatuan received include a P60 million allocation for crop enhancement and production and another P40 million for agricultural inputs and farm equipment.

A Christian missionary, who works for a non-government organization implementing projects meant to foster solidarity among Muslims and Christians in Maguindanao, said the DAR central office should help in the Ombudsman’s investigation on how Ampatuan spent the money for the road projects.

“These are all about 24 road projects. If implemented honestly, there would have been dramatic improvements now in the lives of people in the barangays that were to benefit from these farm-to-market roads,” said the source.

A mayor, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals, said he is convinced the erstwhile Maguindanao governor had also received huge development packages from the central office of the Department of Agriculture during the time of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The Ampatuans were known for their political loyalty to Arroyo while they were at the helm of the Maguindanao provincial leadership.

Ampatuan was arrested on December 8, 2009 and has since been detained for allegedly masterminding the Maguindanao massacre. — JFU