Ex-Gen. Garcia a victim of injustice?

By Jojo Malig, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at Jan 11 2011 12:39 AM | Updated as of Jan 12 2011 03:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Is retired Major Gen. Carlos F. Garcia a victim of injustice?

Sandiganbayan spokesman Renato Bocar apparently thinks so.
 
Bocar was shown a photo of Garcia during an interview with Anthony Taberna on Studio 23’s “Iba-Balita” on Monday night. 
 
“Maaari, posible, eto sinasabi lang natin, na victim of injustice,” he said.
 
Garcia, former Armed Forces' comptroller, had been accused of plunder but is being allowed to enter into a plea bargain agreement. 
 
Under the deal mapped out by the Office of the Ombudsman, Garcia will return P135 million to the government and enter a guilty plea to the lesser offense of direct bribery.
 
The Sandiganbayan spokesman believes that the retired general could have beaten the plunder charge and walked away a free man.
 
“Malamang iyon ang mangyayari kung di nag-plea bargaining agreement at nagtuloy ang trial ni General Garcia,” he said.
 
Weak evidence?
 
A government prosecutor also claimed on Monday that the prosecution does not have enough evidence to convict Garcia of plunder, which is why the Office of the Ombudsman accepted the plea bargain offer of the accused. 
 
Assistant special prosecutor Joseph Capistrano told the Sandiganbayan Second Division there was "a very big risk” that the prosecution could no longer present evidence which would prove beyond reasonable doubt that the former military comptroller was guilty of plunder.
 
The Sandiganbayan spokesman, meanwhile, said he does not know why then Special Prosecutor Dennis Villa-Ignacio and former Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo asserted that the government has enough solid evidence against Garcia.
 
“Hindi nga natin alam ang basehan ng dating Ombudsman Marcelo at dating [Special Prosecutor] Villa-Ignacio sa kanilang conclusion or claim na napakalakas ang ebidensya at sapat para ma-convict si General Garcia,” he said. “Iba ang sabihin mo na malakas ang ebidensya at sabihin mo na sapat ang ebidensya para ma-convict ang akusado.”
 
“Iyong sinasabi ng Sandiganbayan na malakas ang ebidensya para lang yon para ma-deny o ma-approve ang petition for bail. Di ibig sabihin na porke na-deny ang petition for bail ay susunod na ang conviction o sapat na ang ebidensya para ma-convict si Geneal Garcia. Hindi po ganon,” Bocar added.
 
“In fact, pagkatapos po ng petition for bail ang prosecution ay nagpresenta pa ng napakaraming testigo para mapalakas ang kanilang kaso. Kaso ang nangyari, lalong humina ang kanilang kaso at iyan ang inamin ng mga prosecutors kanina sa pagdinig ng urgent motion to intervene ng OSG [Office of the Solicitor General]. Inamin in open court na lalong humina ang kanilang ebidensya nung tumestigo ang iba matapos ang petiton for bail,” he said. 
 
Bocar said that around P50 million in military funds that were initially reported missing and unaccounted was later discovered deposited in a bank. 
 
Garcia’s money
 
He refused to speculate on the amount of money and worth of properties that Garcia and his family accumulated while he was in the military.
 
“Madaming pera, pero so far ang napapatunayan pa lang, ang sinasabi ang napapatunayan marami siyang pera. Pero ang charge kasi dito ay plunder, iyong pagkamal noong pera na 'yon. Paano ba 'yon ginawa ni General Garcia?” he asked. 
 
“So far wala pang ebidensya na naihahaain kung paano kinulimbat allegedly itong napakaraming pera ni General Garcia. Pinakita lang na napakaraming pera sa bangko, merong mga ari-arian na titulado di lang dito sa Pilipinas kundi sa ibang bansa at maraming mga sasakyan na rehistrado sa LTO [Land Transportation Office].
 
Bocar believes that the Sandiganbayan is set to lift a gag order he placed on all parties concerned in the case.
 
“Sinabi na po sakin na baka bukas [Tuesday] makapaglabas na po sila ng formal order lifting the gag order as against the lawyers and the prosecutors,” he revealed. 
 
“Sa akin po mismo, sa sarili ko ay pinayagan na po ako na magpa-interview sa iyo ngayon,” he said.
 
Sandiganbayan yet to approve deal
 
He added that the Sandiganbayan has not yet approved the plea bargaining agreement, as Garcia has to comply first with the conditions set in the deal.
 
“Kanina po sinabi ng OSP [Office of the Special Prosecutor] na di pa nakakapag-comply lahat si General Garcia at ‘di pa natu-turn over sa Ombudsman o sa Sandiganbayan ang mga ari-arian at mga pera sa bangko na nakapaloob sa plea bargain agreement.”
 
“Hangga't di nasesentensyahan si General Garcia sa pag-amin niya sa lesser offenses, ay hindi pa po final ang plea bargaining agreement,” Bocar said.
 
He said the Office of the Solicitor General could have been misled that the Sandiganbayan approved the deal as early as May 2010. 
 
“Ang final approval ng agreement ay di pa naibibigay. Ito ay darating 'pag nagkaroon na ng sentensya,” he reiterated. 
 
“At any time prior to that, maaari pang magkaroon ng pagbabago at maaaring ma-scuttle ang plea bargaining agreement kung sakaling ‘di matupad ni General Garcia iyong nakasaad sa mga conditions ng kanyang plea bargaining agreement. Maaaring bawiin mismo ng Office of the Special Prosecutor ang kanilang pagsangayon sa plea bargaining agreement at mismo ang Sandiganbayan ay di magbibigay ng  kanilang final approval sa plea bargaining agreement kung walang full compliance sa conditions.”