Sandiganbayan says Garcia plea deal not yet approved

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 10 2011 12:18 PM | Updated as of Jan 11 2011 03:37 AM

Former AFP comptroller given 15 days to comment on OSG motion

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - The Sandiganbayan has given former military comptroller Major General Carlos Garcia enough time to answer the allegations filed by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) in its bid to have his plea bargain junked.

Sandiganbayan spokesperson Renato Bocar said the court deferred ruling on the plunder and money laundering cases anew, preferring instead to allow Garcia to reply within 15 days the government lawyer’s motion to intervene.

During the hearing on Monday morning, the anti-graft court’s second division lambasted the OSG for insisting that the plea bargain had already been approved as early as May 2010, or 2 months before President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo stepped down from office.

Had the OSG read its resolution in May, the court there said that conditions have to be met first before the agreement will be approved, Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Edilberto Sandoval said. He is also the division’s chairman.

Assistant Solicitor General Amparo Cabotaje Tang appeared for the OSG.

Sandoval questioned why her office did not file a motion to intervene as early as May.

He also noted no less than the OSG approved a request from special prosecutors that a freeze order on Garcia’s assets be lifted.

Under the agreement, Garcia – who faces plunder charges – will return P135 million to the government and enter a guilty plea to the lesser offense of direct bribery.

Solicitor General Jose Anselmo Cadiz had asked the anti-graft court on Wednesday to revoke the plea bargain agreement that Garcia had made with the Ombudsman.

The OSG will then be given another 15 days to file a rejoinder on Garcia’s comment. The case will then be submitted for resolution.

The Sandiganbayan is not entertaining a call for oral arguments.

No evidence against Garcia

Unlike what the administration is insisting, the prosecution said it does not have enough evidence to pin down Garcia for plunder – thus the need for a plea bargain.

During the same hearing, prosecutor Joseph Capistrano said they were unable to locate the military suppliers who supposedly bribed Garcia.

Their witnesses even have conflicting statements, which may weaken further the case, he said.

Garcia is accused of amassing over P300 million pesos in ill-gotten wealth while he was Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) comptroller.

A week before Christmas, Garcia was released after posting a P60,000 peso bail. – with reports from ANC, DZMM and Sheryll Mundo, ABS-CBN News