The Sandiganbayan has ordered the suspension of trial in the graft and malversation cases of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari over the alleged anomalous purchase of P115 million worth of educational materials from 2000 to 2001.
In a minute resolution dated December 6, the anti-graft court's Third Division ruled to suspend the trial of Misuari after it approved his motion for preliminary investigation in November.
"The motion to order preliminary investigation is granted considering that the prosecution did not object thereto, and the motion defer the scheduled arraignment is noted," the Sandiganbayan said in a minute resolution in November.
"Let the proceedings in these cases be suspended with respect to accused Nur P. Misuari only until the said preliminary investigation against him shall have been terminated," it added.
Then-serving as governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Misuari was charged with three counts each of graft and malversation through falsification for allegedly conspiring with his co-accused in giving "unwarranted benefits, advantage and privilege" to three private companies.
Ombudsman investigators found that "no such materials were delivered" by MBJ Learning Tools, CPR Publishing, and White Orchids Printing and Publishing House.
The Ombudsman also alleged that the respondents conspired to "take, appropriate or misappropriate" the said amounts by supposedly falsifying the corresponding procurement documents for the educational materials.
State prosecutors, in its motion to hold in abeyance the proceedings, said it was "constrained to move for the suspension of the proceedings of all the cases" of Misuari pending the results of the preliminary investigation.
The prosecution said the suspension is essential in the case since the probe may find a different outcome in the criminal liability of Misuari.
"This is not to preempt the result of the preliminary investigation but there is always a possibility that a different conclusion may be arrived at depending on the evidence presented. Hence, the necessity of suspending further proceedings in these cases," the motion read.
In his 11-page omnibus motion, Misuari said the Office of the Ombudsman failed to give him an opportunity to defend himself and answer the allegations hurled against him.
“Accused Nur Misuari most respectfully request the Honorable Third Division of the Sandiganbayan to refer the present cases against him for preliminary investigation by the Ombudsman and to defer the date of his arraignment if it is already scheduled,” he said.
Misuari added that he was also "shocked" upon learning about his case at the Sandiganbayan, saying he was not even notified by the Ombudsman that there was a complaint against him.
“For lack of preliminary investigation, herein, accused was deprived of his right to adduce controverting documents against the complaint lodged against him,” Misuari said. —KBK, GMA News