Palace orders Ombudsman to explain Garcia deal

Posted at 12/19/10 1:52 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Malacanang has ordered the Office of the Ombudsman to explain why it has entered into a plea bargain agreement with a former military comptroller who have been accused of amassing ill-gotten wealth.

In an interview with radio dzRB, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said “[President Benigno Aquino III] is very interested as to why the Ombudsman had to enter into a plea bargain with [retired Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia].”

Aquino believes that there is enough evidence that would already warrant his conviction, without ever going this route, she noted.

Apparently disappointed over the turn of events, Aquino directed Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa on Saturday to review the deal that allowed Garcia to walk out of jail.

The Sandiganabayan allowed Garcia to post a P60,000 bail, even if it was originally hearing a plunder case – a non-bailable offense.

This could mean that it had already approved the deal, wherein Garcia agreed to return part of the P303.27 million he supposedly stole in exchange for the lesser charges of direct bribery and money laundering.

The court has yet to issue a resolution on the matter.

Garcia’s wife and 3 sons are his co-accused in the plunder case. They were arrested in the United States on different dates between 2003 and 2009 and are now awaiting extradition.

It was former Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo and a reform group that prompted Aquino to direct a review of the agreement.

“Under the rules of court, a plea bargaining agreement may only be entered if the prosecution has not yet started the presentation of evidence. In this case, the prosecution has already completed it. Further, the court has already ruled that the prosecution has presented sufficient evidence to convict Garcia," Marcelo said earlier in a text message.

The group Pagbabago! People's Movement for Change, meanwhile, said the plea bargain deal is a toleration of military corruption.

They said the move is against the anti-corruption program of the Aquino administration.

Valte noted the discussions for the plea agreement have started even before the new administration took office.