Ombudsman: Reverse Garcia ruling, try him for plunder

by RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 16 2011 05:48 PM | Updated as of Sep 17 2011 07:20 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales  has asked the anti-graft court to set aside its May 9, 2011 resolution approving the controversial plea bargain agreement (PBA) on the plunder case of former military comptroller Carlos Garcia and allow the trial to proceed.

Morales beat the deadline and filed a position paper asking the anti-graft court to reject the controversial plea bargain agreement on Garcia's plunder case.

In the same paper, Morales asked the court to allow the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to intervene in the case and set aside the ruling that barred the OSG.

The position was received by the court close to the end of office hours Friday.

Morales also said in her manifestation that the plea bargain agreement may be used as evidence against Garcia as his admission of guilt.

Morales position effectively reverses the stance taken by her predecessor, former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, who said that the evidence against Garcia in his corruption case was weak.

In her position paper,  Morales challenged the correctness and validity of the execution and approval of the PBA.

Citing section 27, Rule 130 of the revised Rules of Court, morales pointed out that in criminal cases, a plea bargain, which can be considered an offer of compromise by the accused, may be received as an implied admission of guilt.

Morales singled out that by the terms of the PBA, Garcia owned and admitted to having amassed, accumulated or acquired the ill-gotten wealth of about 135 million pesos.

Morales’ petition reads: "Would General Garcia have surrendered those 135, 433,387.84 properties to the Republic of the Philippines if they were not ill-gotten? This total amount is clearly more than two times and nearly 3 times more than the minimal aggregate amount of 50 mentioned in Sec. 2 of RA 7080. Pursuant then to Sec. 27, Rule 130 of the revised Rules of Court, the foregoing admission by Gen. Garcia in the PBA may be received in evidence as an admission of guilt of plunder against which he glaringly referred no controverting evidence upto the approval of the PBA."

Morales also asked if there was any serious effort to pursue the extradition cases in the US against Mrs. Garcia and her 3 sons who are co-accused in the case. The inability to cross-examine Clarita Garcia was cited by the prosecution in ignoring the letters of  Mrss Garcia as possible evidence for the prosecution.

Morales also noted that court records show that the PBA was submitted to the court before the prosecution could rest its case. As such, Morales said, “since the prosecution had not rested its case, it was premature to conclude that the evidence against the accused was weak. Morales also noted that the defense did not present any evidence till it presented its joint motion for the approval of the PBA."

Morales also said the court should have allowed the OSG to intervene in the case, as she asked the court to revisit its May 9, 2011 resolution that barred the Solicitor General from representing the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as the offended party because the special prosecutor is the one authorized by law to represent the state.

Morales said the resolution failed to cite the law stating this, stressing the OSG already has the mandate to represent the state in any matter requiring the services of lawyers. Morales said there is no law that bars the OSG from representing the AFP.

The Ombudsman previously asked the Sandiganbayan to hold a decision on the approval of the agreement, giving her 30 days to submit a position paper. The grace period ends Friday.