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Sandiganbayan junks Misuari’s plea to dismiss ‘ghost textbook’ case

THE SANDIGANBAYAN has junked the motion of former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) governor Nur Misuari to junk his graft and malversation case in connection with the alleged anomalous purchase of educational materials.
In a resolution dated November 29, the Sandiganbayan Third Division said there is nothing oppressive in the delay of the Ombudsman’s investigation into the alleged anomaly.
The court said Ombudsman investigators only took 118 days to conduct its preliminary investigation against Misuari, contrary to his claim that the investigation took more than four years, constituting inordinate delay. “To the mind of the Court, the period of 118 days that it took the prosecution to resolve its preliminary investigation as regards the accused-movant is reasonable. It was not occasioned by any capricious, vexatious, or oppressive delays,” it said.
The Sandiganbayan added that Misuari cannot argue that his rights have been violated due to his admission that he was never notified of the complaint against him, therefore he never submitted any counter-affidavit in his defense.
“Not being aware of the complaint, it stands to reason that the accused-movant was not subjected to oppression or prejudiced by the ‘holding [of] criminal prosecution over him for an indefinite time’ of the character that constitutes a violation of one’s right to a speedy disposition of cases,” the Sandiganbayan said, adding, “indeed, from the accused-movant’s own admission, he was completely unaware of the proceedings until it was reported in the media.”
Misuari was charged for allegedly giving undue advantage to CPR Publishing House, MBJ Learning Tools, and White Orchids for the procurement of “ghost textbooks” from 2000 to 2001 during his term as ARMM governor. He and his co-accused also allegedly falsified procurement documents to justify the legality of the P77.26-million contract.
Misuari, in his motion, argued he cannot be liable for the transaction wherein he is no longer the governor of ARMM. He said the payments to CPR Publishing took place in July 2004, MBJ Learning in December 2003, and for White Orchids in July 2004 and September 2005.
Misuari said these were covered by the incumbency of former ARMM governor Parouk Hussin since his term expired on September 30, 2001. The issue of conspiracy is also non-existent, according to Misuari, as he was detained in Malaysia from December 2001 to January 2002 after he fled from the Philippines following a deadly siege in Zamboanga City; and for six years in the Philippines from 2002 to 2008 after Kuala Lumpur deported him to the country.
Misuari, chieftain of the former rebel group Moro National Liberation Front, said he was in detention at the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force Training Center in Santa Rosa town in Laguna province when the three private companies were paid, making it impossible for him to facilitate the transaction and denied signing any of the purchase orders and disbursement vouchers.
However, the Sandiganbayan no longer discussed the issues on conspiracy and the payments made to the private companies. It instead urged Misuari to present his defense during the trial. The Sandiganbayan said the dismissal bid of Misuari also seemed like a motion for judicial determination of probable cause, which it already resolved on August 31, 2017.
“It is plain that arguments advanced by the accused-movant regarding his alleged non-liability for the offenses charged are evidentiary in nature and best threshed out in a full-blown trail on the merits. There is thus no need to discuss the accused-movant’s arguments in this regard at any great length,” the resolution read.
Misuari posted bail in September 2017 in the amount of P460,000 for his temporary freedom. He is also facing criminal charges after his followers attacked Zamboanga City for the second time in 2013 and the siege last several weeks that left hundreds of thousands of people homeless. The attack killed and wounded dozens of people. (By Joseph Tristan Roxas, GMA News. With a report from the Mindanao Examiner.)

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