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MANILA, Philippines – A special division of the anti-graft court denied an accused in cases related to the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam from going abroad to attend the graduation of his daughter because he was a flight risk.
Dennis Cunanan, a former deputy director-general of the Technology Resource Center, filed on March 14 a Motion for Leave of Court to Travel. He manifested that he hoped to attend the graduation of his daughter from Purdue University in Indiana, USA on May 13.
But a special division of five justices of the Sandiganbayan denied Cunanan’s motion on a vote of 3-2.
“Accused Cunanan’s cases which are pending before the Sandiganbayan, as well as his convictions which are pending appeal before the Supreme Court, gives him the motivation to escape and no longer return to the Philippines. Thus, there is a strong possibility that accused Cunanan’s travel abroad may be a ruse to abscond from his criminal conviction and prosecution in the country,” said the Sandiganbayan Sixth Division.
In particular, Associate Justice Zaldy V. Trespeses, who penned the majority resolution dated May 8, 2023, and concurred by Associate Justices Rafael R. Lagos and Ma. Theresa Dolores C. Gomez-Estoesta, based the denial of Cunanan’s motion on his indictment in a number of PDAF cases and his conviction on 2 counts of graft and 2 counts of malversation of public funds.
“Accused Cunanan had already been convicted in SB-17-CRM-1496 and 1497, and in SB-17-CRM-0930 and 0940, both entitled People v. Gregorio Tipong, et al. Such convictions by Cunanan, though not yet final, make him a flight risk and necessitates that the court take greater caution in determining whether he should be allowed to travel in order to safeguard the system of justice,” added the Sandiganbayan.
The anti-graft court also sustained the objection of the prosecution that Cunanan’s request for a two-week travel was not justified since his daughter’s graduation was only a one-day event.
In the dissenting opinion she submitted, Associate Justice Sarah Jane T. Fernandez noted that even though there were several pending criminal charges, as well as convictions, against Cunanan, the Supreme Court had previously granted the accused permission to travel abroad in a resolution dated June 27, 2022.
Fernandez’s dissent, which was joined by Associate Justice Kevin Narce B. Vivero, said that denying Cunanan’s motion amounted to an undue deprivation of his constitutional right to travel.
However, the majority of the justices said that the graduation of the defendant’s daughter, though a “rare and momentous occasion,” was not an urgent necessity. – Rappler.com