KOTA KINABALU, June 10 — Sabah politician and pageant co-organiser Phillip Among has pleaded not guilty to five charges of molestation here today.
Of the five, four of the charges involve the same person, an Unduk Ngadau pageant contestant, in four separate incidents on the same day, while another involved a staff member.
The first charge held that Among, 52, had allegedly molested a staff member at 11pm in the lobby of Jesselton Capsule Inn in Asia City, on April 17.
The other charges claimed Among had on May 19 committed the same offence on the Unduk Ngadau contestant at 2pm in the stairwell of a studio in Asia City; at 3.30pm at a tourism company office belonging to Among; at 9.45pm in a car after dinner; and at 10pm at an office in Metrotown.
The charges are all under Section 354 of the Penal Code for use of criminal force to outrage a person’s modesty.
The case was prosecuted by deputy public prosecutor Siti Amirah Muhammad Ali.
Magistrate Jessica Ombou Kakayun set the pre-trial case management dates on July 14, 21 and 22.
She also reduced the bail from the original RM20,000 for each charge, to RM8,000 per charge after Among’s lawyers Marcel Jude Joseph and Abdul Fikry Jaafar Abdullah argued that he was not a flight risk and that he had been subjected to social media crucifixion.
He is also restricted from any contact with the victims or the victims’ families and must surrender his passport and check in at the police station once a month.
In asking for a lower bail, lawyer Abdul Fikry said that Among, a former parliamentary coordinator with Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku, had always cooperated with the police, apart from work and familial obligations to his wife and two young children in Kota Kinabalu.
He also said that Among was suffering from high blood pressure and gallbladder problems and is taking stroke medication.
Meanwhile, Marcel made an impassioned plea, arguing that RM100,000 for all five charges was too high a bail for his client, who has already been found guilty in the court of public opinion.
He said that Among has done a lot of good work for the community, such as food and blood donation drives, but all that has been forgotten as he was “demonised as a sexual predator” because of his involvement in the popular Unduk Ngadau pageant.
“He is a responsible successful businessman and family man. Like any man, he may have weaknesses, but we are not judging him on his weaknesses, we are judging him as to whether he is a criminal, a criminal who uses assault or criminal force to obtain sex from his victims. We cannot turn physical consensual actions of affection between adults into a Section 354 offence,” he said.
On May 19, a pageant contestant lodged a police report alleging Among had led her to his car and office after a photo shoot at a bridal studio and proceeded to grope her.
The police report went viral, creating a social media storm, partly due to the allegations, and also because of the popular and cherished nature of the traditional pageant.