Garcia plea bargain alarms businessmen

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 20 2010 09:58 PM | Updated as of Feb 17 2011 05:25 AM

MAKATI CITY, Phillippines - The Makati Business Club (MBC) and the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) expressed alarm Monday on the recent developments in the plunder case involving retired Major General Carlos Garcia.

A plea bargain agreement between Garcia and prosecutors under the Office of the Ombudsman was apparently reached and allowed by the Sandiganbayan Second Division, which paved the way for the release of the accused, the business groups said in a statement.

“Four days after the Sandiganbayan approved Mr. Garcia's motion to post bail, the full details of the plea bargain agreement are known only to a few. Such critical details as the amount and form of a supposed financial settlement have not yet been disclosed to the public,” the groups added.

They urged either the Sandiganbayan or the Ombudsman to complete contents of the plea bargain agreement with the former Armed Forces comptroller amid the significance of the case and its impact on the government’s fight against corruption and the prosecution of dishonest public officials.

“Beyond the matter of transparency, however, what is truly at issue here is the decision to entertain plea bargain talks in the first place,” the MBC and the MAP said.

“We concur with the opinion of former Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo questioning the prosecutors' move given the legally flawed timing of the plea bargain, the prosecutors' failure to consult the aggrieved parties, and the strong case the government had built against Mr. Garcia.”

The business groups described as “feeble” and “unsound” the reason given by prosecutors who approved Garcia’s plea-bargain deal.

“What is apparent is that justice has been sacrificed for expediency,” the groups said. “A plea bargain on a corruption case of such significance sends the wrong signal to the public about our courts' commitment to support the fight against corruption.”

“Such a move is diametrically opposed to the Aquino administration's fundamental anti-corruption principle, ‘Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.’  It also serves as an open invitation for all others charged in corruption cases to pursue the route of plea bargains and runs the risk of encouraging future cases.

The MBC and the MAP urged the Sandiganbayan to actively pursue the case against Garcia and other high-profile personalities if it is serious in its fight against corruption.