Heidi: Court had enough evidence to junk Garcia deal

by David Dizon, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at May 11 2011 09:36 PM | Updated as of May 12 2011 04:28 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Whistleblower and Commission on Audit (COA) commissioner Heidi Mendoza on Wednesday said there was enough evidence of wrongdoing to quash the proposed plea bargaining deal between the government and former military comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia.

Speaking to radio dzMM, Mendoza said she does not know what type of evidence the Sandiganbayan needed to prove that Garcia committed irregularities during his time as Armed Forces comptroller.

Heidi: Court had enough evidence to junk Garcia deal 1"There were documents and testimony so I don't know what else was needed. For me, although I know that judges should not be swayed by public opinion, this is a situation where we are not just talking about public opinion but real information...and evidence," she said.

Mendoza was the leader of an 11-man team of auditors who investigated transactions of the AFP during the time of Garcia as military comptroller.

Garcia was accused of taking more than P300 million in military funds while in active service.

She said among the irregularities she uncovered during her audit were "suspicious transactions and double dipping of funds" wherein expense items were charged to 2 different budgets.

She added that the amounts involved in the irregular transactions were larger than the P303 million that Garcia allegedly stole during his time as comptroller.

Mendoza's revelations during the Senate Blue Ribbon inquiry on the Garcia plea bargain deal prompted lawmakers to urge the Ombudsman to reject the deal.

Under the plea bargain, Garcia would only return P135 million in assets in exchange for pleading guilty to lesser charges of indirect bribery.

The Sandiganbayan recently upheld the plea deal after noting that Garcia had already complied with the requirements.

No sleep

Mendoza said she could not sleep after learning ahead of the news media that the anti-graft court would approve the deal.

"Nakakasama ng loob pero anong masasabi ko doon...Wala akong panahon malungkot o ma-disappoint sa dami ng expectation at trabaho pero hindi ako makatulog ng buong gabi ng malaman ko," she said.

She echoed the sentiments of President Aquino that the anti-graft court rendered its decision "in a vacuum" without listening to all the opinions and testimonies that proved Garcia was guilty of plunder.

Asked if she feels that her testimony in the Senate was a waste, Mendoza said: "When we we fight corruption, dapat hindi masiraan ng loob."

"This should serve as a challenge. It must not deter us from doing more action. We can do a lot of reforms in COA. We have to move forward. We have to tell our countrymen we must not give space to those who seek to destroy our hopes, to those who want to weaken us," she said.