Ampatuans’ assets ‘frozen’-A A +A
Sunday, December 4, 2011
MANILA -- The government secured on Friday a preliminary asset preservation order on the multi-billion bank accounts and assets of the Ampatuan clan, whose members are being tried for the massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao in 2009.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the preliminary asset preservation order (Papo) has the effect of a freeze order, which means the Ampatuans may not be able to withdraw, transfer or do any other kinds of transactions from said accounts, or touch their assets.
De Lima said the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), through the office of the Solicitor General, filed a civil forfeiture case with prayer for the issuance of a preliminary asset preservation order before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila Friday.
The Papo was also issued on the same day it was filed. “So, there’s no oversight,” said de Lima.
The move was made following reports that a member of the Ampatuan clan had attempted to withdraw from one of the accounts covered by the freeze order in Banco de Oro in Cotabato last Thursday.
De Lima also said she immediately sought Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo’s help to deploy police personnel to secure the bank, amid reports of harassment of the bank manager and personnel to regain control of their assets.
She added that she also asked Solicitor General Jose Anselmo Cadiz to advise the bank about the RTC-issued Papo.
De Lima said the government has aggressively acted for the freezing of the assets, which the Ampatuans may have used in committing fraud, such as amassing up to P1 billion in ill-gotten wealth.
Returning said bank accounts, firearms and other resources to the Ampatuans would give them leverage over government prosecutors and the victims' families in their ongoing trial for the Maguindanao massacre case, said de Lima.
Members of the Ampatuan clan, led by its patriarch former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., were tagged in the November 23, 2009 massacre of 57 individuals, among them members of the rival Mangudadatu clan, their lawyers and supporters, and more than 30 media workers, who accompanied their convoy to a local election office.
Andal Sr.’s son, former Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., was then supposed to take over the province from his third-termer father and run for governor against Esmael Mangudadatu.
Apparently to thwart his election bid, the group waylaid the convoy of the Mangudadatus led by his wife, Bai Genelyn, who was to file his certificate of candidacy on his behalf.
Following the filing of criminal cases against the accused in court, the AMLC applied for a freeze order at the Court of Appeals, which was granted.
Last August, the Court of Appeals extended the freeze order on the 597 bank accounts, 142 firearms, 132 motor vehicles and 113 houses and lots in the names of 27 members of Ampatuan clan and their associates. That freeze order by the appellate court lapsed last Friday.
Earlier, the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists Inc. and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines lamented the delay in the actions of the government as they questioned why the AMLC’s petition for a new freeze order was filed with the court only last December 1, or a day before the freeze order of the Court of Appeals lapsed.
“We view with great alarm the unwarranted delay and apparent lack of attention that the AMLC and the OSG had accorded this case. A week ahead of expiry of the appellate court’s freeze order, we called government attention to this grave matter — the possibility that the Ampatuans could take such delay as a chance to retake control of their enormous unexplained wealth to put pressure to bear on their trial for the Maguindanao massacre of Nov. 23, 2009,” the media watchdogs said. (JCV/Sunnex)