By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki
The Sandiganbayan has decided to let Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman and former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Nur Misuari off the hook even though he failed to personally appear before the Third Division Clerk of Court after coming back from his Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates and Morocco trip.
The anti-graft court allowed him to travel to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates and Morocco last March in order to attend the 48th session of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Council (OIC) of foreign ministers and the 14th Session of the Parliamentary Union of Islamic Cooperation (PUIC) member states.
As part of his travel conditions, Misuari posted P920,000 as his travel bond. He was also directed to present himself to the Division Clerk of Court, lawyer Dennis Pulma, within five days of his return, a condition Misuari failed to comply.
On March 19, Misuari posted a manifestation expressing regret that he was not able to comply. He explained that he had to “conduct intensive and exhaustive consultations with his field commanders and advisers to prepare further talks with the President about the Mindanao situation.”
Misuari and President Duterte had a scheduled meeting on March 19 on the latest developments in the peace effort, so Misuari had to personally review his notes on the meetings he had during his trip.
His manifestation was met with opposition from the prosecution. The prosecution argued that his reason was not “compelling” enough, and he should not be treated differently from any other accused. They moved that Misuari’s travel bond be revoked and that a warrant of arrest be issued against him.
In a resolution, the anti-graft court decided to let Misuari’s failure to appear slide.
“Nevertheless, this Court finds the reasons forwarded by accused-movant Misuari in support of his non-compliance to be valid and accepted, bearing that this is the first time that accused-movant Misuari travelled outside the Philippines,” the resolution read.
“However, it must be emphasized that this leniency should not be interpreted as a relaxation of the conditions that may be imposed for foreign travels of accused-movant Misuari in the future,” it added.
The six-page resolution was penned by Associate Justice Bernelito Fernandez with the concurrence of Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang and Associate Justice Ronald Moreno.
Misuari is facing two graft and two malversation through falsification charges in relation to the reportedly anomalous purchase of different educational packages and materials from 2000 to 2001.
After his trip to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates and Morocco, he asked permission again from the court to travel to Saudi Arabia from May to June in order to join the pilgrimage to the holy land of Mecca.