Misuari seeks court nod for conferences abroad, state says his attendance 'not indispensable'

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 15 2019 04:31 PM

MANILA - Former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) governor and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari has asked the Sandiganbayan 3rd Division to allow him to go overseas to attend several meetings pending his graft trial. 

In a motion, Misuari sought permission to attend the 46th session of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the meeting of the Parliamentary Union of the OIC Member States (PUIC) in Morocco.

Misuari is on trial before the Sandiganbayan 3rd Division for two counts of graft and two counts of malversation through falsification of public documents over the supposedly anomalous purchase of educational materials when he was ARMM governor.

He told the anti-graft court that if allowed, he would depart on Feb. 27 for Abu Dhabi, UAE, then fly to Rabat, Morocco on March 11 and will be back in the Philippines not later than March 20.

“The MNLF enjoys an observer status with the OIC and the PUIC as the sole representative of the Bangsamoro people,” Misuari’s lawyer Manolo Flores said in the travel motion.

Misuari’s travel to the Middle East was opposed by government prosecutors who stressed that he was only invited to the OIC session as a “mere observer.”

“This will bolster the fact that his presence therein is not indispensable. Hence, the reasons proffered by accused will not suffice to grant him the authority to travel abroad,” the prosecution led by Deputy Special Prosecutor Omar Sagadal said in their opposition.

The prosecution also noted that Misuari failed to give details of his other activities in the UAE and Morocco as the meetings would only cover a total of four days.

Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice and 3rd Division Chairperson Amparo Cabotaje-Tang noted during the hearing on the travel motion Friday that Misuari must be conditionally arraigned, a requirement for accused individuals before they are allowed to travel abroad.

Misuari’s lawyer Arthur Lim, meanwhile, noted the security threats and other issues which prevented the former MNLF chairman to go to Manila to attend the hearing.

After hearing the arguments of the prosecution and the defense, Cabotaje-Tang said the motion was submitted for resolution.