Aquino allies clobber Sandiganbayan approval of Garcia plea bargain

May 8, 2011

Tetch Torres, Maila Ager
Inquirer.net
May 9, 2011

Manila, Philippines – Senators allied with the administration of President Benigno Aquino III lambasted on Monday the Sandiganbayan’s approval of the plea bargain agreement with former military comptroller Carlos Garcia, one of them describing it a “serious blow” to the government’s campaign against corruption.

The Sandiganbayan Second Division had approved the plea bargaining agreement between former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) General Garcia and the Office of the Ombudsman.

Its 2nd division issued three resolutions on the case, the first resolution approved the plea bargain, while the second resolution denied the Office of the Solicitor-General’s motion to intervene on the case.

On the third resolution, Second Division Chairman Edilberto Sandoval refused to inhibit from the case. Government lawyers had sought his inhibition from the case to remove doubts on the Sandiganbayan’s integrity because Sandoval’s son works as a lawyer at the Office of the Special Prosecutor, the office who initiated the plea bargaining agreement.

“The decision is lamentable. It is a serious blow to our anti-corruption efforts,” Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said in a text message.

He then urged the Aquino government to mobilize its entire machinery to oppose what he described as “unconscionable agreement.”

“We might as well wave the flag of surrender if we allow this stinking deal to push through,” Pangilinan said.

He said the Aquino government must appeal the case before the Supreme Court “in order to prevent this travesty of justice.”

“To abet this plea bargain agreement is to condone corruption in high office,” the Senator thundered.

Like Pangilinan, Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero insisted that the plea bargain agreement with Garcia should have not been allowed by the court.

“I believe General Garcia together with Gen. Ligot both belong in jail for raping the military and the people’s coffers,” Escudero said, referring to another former military comptroller, Jacinto Ligot.

“I am one with the 83 per cent of Filipinos who said in the Pulse Asia survey that they should be tried for their crimes,” he said.

Escudero said he expects the Solicitor General to appeal the ruling, as well as the Sandigabayan’s denial of a motion to intervene on the case.

The plea bargain agreement reportedly allowed Garcia to return to the government some P150-million believed to be ill-gotten in exchange for pleading guilty to a lesser offense instead of plunder which is punishable by life imprisonment.

It also dismissed the government lawyers motion to intervene on the case.

Last December, Garcia has been released after posting bail for P60,000 or P30,000 for each of the offense of direct bribery and violation of the Anti-money laundering law.

Garcia has been charged criminally for allegedly amassing P302 million while in active military service

 

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