Sandiganbayan ruling stirs furor

WE share the disappointment of President Benigno Aquino III and his allies in Congress on the approval of the Sandiganbayan Second of the plea bargain agreement between former military comptroller Carlos Garcia and government prosecutors over his P303-million plunder case.

The ruling is not only erroneous and disadvantageous to the government but also questionable because it failed to consider the testimonies of witnesses during congressional hearings on the controversial plea bargain issue.

Expressing his surprise over the Sandiganbayan ruling the President said: “Didn’t one of the prosecutors said that had they known there was this kind of evidence against Garcia, they wouldn’t have pushed for this plea bargain.

Just the same, however, the Sandiganbayan approved the deal because Garcia had complied with its conditions – pleading guilty to the lesser offences of direct bribery and facilitating money laundering, and transferring of P135 million of the more than P300 million of his and his family’s assets to the government.

It may be recalled that even before the anti-graft court approved the deal, Garcia last December walked out of jail after posting P60,000 bail.

It is expected that the Office of Solicitor General will ask first the Sandiganbayan to reconsider its decision instead of immediately elevating the case to the Supreme Court because of the risk of being dismissed because of its failure to exhaust all of its legal remedies.

As soon as the motion for reconsideration is denied, the OSG is expected to bring the case to Supreme Court  to prevent re-arraignment of Garcia for the lesser offenses he pleaded guilty to and the promulgation of the case by the Sandiganbayan.

Otherwise, the application of the principle of double jeopardy will prevent the government from pursuing the case against Garcia because under the Constitution you can’t judge a person twice for the same offense.

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