Julian Ongpin opposes gag order sought by DOJ
MANILA, Philippines — Beleaguered art patron Julian Ongpin has opposed the gag order sought by the Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecution panel against him and his representatives in relation to drug trafficking charges.
Ongpin, son of businessman and former Trade Minister Roberto Ongpin, argued that this was a “ploy” to restrict his right to defend himself in the court of public opinion while opposing parties had all the leeway to talk about the case presuming his guilt ahead of any trial.
Through legal counsel, Dennis Manalo, Ongpin filed at the Regional Trial Court of San Fernando City, La Union (Branch 27), on Nov. 4 his official comment on the DOJ’s urgent motion for a gag order.
‘Same, equal chance’
Ongpin argued that it’s only just that he should be given “the same and equal chance to defend himself until the prosecution learns to practice what it preaches.”
“Should the Honorable Court issue a gag order, it should be addressed to all parties concerned, not just [the] accused, his representatives and counsel/s. Any fair restriction on a public discussion of the merits of this case must apply to the prosecution, its witnesses and their respective representatives and counsel/s, as well,” the filing read.
In seeking the gag order, the DOJ prosecution panel cited Manalo’s 30-minute TV interview with broadcaster Karen Davila, during which the lawyer talked about irregularities in police investigation on the Ongpin case.
The DOJ panel said Manalo’s pronouncement that the seized drugs might have been planted by police officers or may even belong to other occupants of the hostel in La Union where Ongpin’s girlfriend, artist Bree Jonson, was found dead.
The DOJ had indicted Ongpin for possession of illegal drugs on the heels of the investigation of Jonson’s death. Local police reported finding drugs in the resort room Jonson had shared with Ongpin.
“The prosecution omitted to state that the Philippine National Police and private attorneys representing the family of Breana Agunod y Jonson have earlier made public statements discussing the merits of the case to form public opinion on the guilt of the accused without the benefit of trial,” Ongpin’s filing said.
Ongpin noted that even the DOJ, through the Philippine News Agency, had joined the fray when it splattered his mugshot to announce his indictment in this case.
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