Palace can go to SC to oppose Garcia plea bargain

Posted at 01/05/2011 12:58 PM | Updated as of 01/05/2011 12:58 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang can oppose the plea bargain deal between former military comptroller Carlos F. Garcia and the Office of the Ombudsman before the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court spokesman said on Wednesday.

"'Pag ganyan, puwede silang umakyat sa Supreme Court at doon nila ilagay ang arguments nila... Maaaring mag-file ang Malacañang. at base sa reklamo, iyon ay pag-aaralan kung talagang may merit ang reklamo," Court Administrator Midas Marquez told radio dzMM in an interview.

Marquez said the SC can summon members of the Office of the Ombudsman involved in the Garcia plunder case if the high court finds merit in the complaint.

Even an ordinary taxpayer can question the deal before the SC as long as he can present evidence, he said.

Asked when a defendant should offer a plea bargain, Marquez said that a deal is usually entered into between the prosecution and the defense before the presentation of evidence or before the presentation of evidence is completed.

"Mahirap naman na natapos na ang evidence, ikaw akusado 'Teka tingnan muna natin baka walang ebidensya o mahina ang ebidensya'," he said.

He added that if the presentation of evidence has been completed, the prosecution can enter into a plea bargaining agreement with the accused only "under special circumstances."

Marquez said "special circumstance" should be explained by the prosecution, or, in this case, the Office of the Ombudsman.

Strong evidence vs Garcia

Former Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo has questioned the legality of the agreement. He said Garcia would surely be found guilty of plunder because of the strong evidence presented by the prosecution against him.

Various officials, including President Benigno Aquino III, also questioned the decision of state prosecutors to enter into a plea bargain with Garcia who is accused of amassing P303.27 million in ill-gotten wealth while in active service with the military.

The agreement allowed Garcia to enter guilty pleas for the lesser--and bailable--offenses of direct bribery and violation of Section 4-B of the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) instead of plunder. He walked free last year after posting P60,000 bail.

Marquez said Malacañang can also question the Sandiganbayan's supposed "hasty" approval of Garcia's bail petition if it sees irregularities in the proceedings.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda has questioned the same-day approval of Garcia's petition for bail at the Sandiganbayan.

"As a lawyer, there's a 3-day notice rule na you set the case for hearing, you set the case for bail, and then you should allow the other party to respond or comment to the petition for bail. We wonder why it was issued in due haste," Lacierda said.

On the day Garcia pleaded guilty to direct bribery, he immediately applied for bail. The petition was reportedly approved the same day.

Lacierda said the government is still studying its options to stop Garcia’s plea bargain.