MANILA, Philippines - A government lawyer from the Office of the Ombudsman on Friday said only the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court can decide on the legality of the plea bargaining agreement of former military comptroller Carlos Garcia and the Philippine government.
In a statement, Deputy Special Prosecutor Jesus Micael maintained that the Office of the Special Prosecutor did not err when it agreed to the plea deal that allows Garcia to return P135 million in assets and admission to indirect bribery and money laundering instead of being tried for plunder.
“The issue of the legitimacy or validity of the plea bargaining agreement has been submitted to the Sandiganbayan where it is pending at this time. Only this court, therefore, can settle all the issues under this agreement, including the question of whether or not the consent of anybody must be secured," Micael said.
Micael rejected the arguments of UP College of Law dean Marvic Leonen and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima that the plea bargaining agreement was void from the beginning because the consent of the offended party, the Armed Forces of the Philippines was not obtained.
He said the provision of the Rules of Court being referred to by de Lima and Leonen is applicable only when a private offended party is involved. In the Garcia case however, the offended party is the “People of the Philippines” duly represented by the Office of the Ombudsman thru the Office of the Special Prosecutor.
“The complainant is not the AFP but the People prosecuting the accused through the public prosecutor. In the Garcia case whose interests are likely transgressed in the event that the government loses the case? The state is it not?” he said.
Micael said the authority of the Office of the Ombudsman to enter into a plea bargaining agreement is founded not just on the Rules of Court but specifically given by Republic Act 6770, the charter which created the Office of the Ombudsman.
Those questioning the validity of the plea bargaining agreement the Office entered into with Garcia should suspend their opinions on the issue until the Sandiganbayan has promulgated its resolution on the case, he added.