Sandiganbayan to issue Garcia ruling Wednesday

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 21 2010 09:59 PM | Updated as of Dec 22 2010 08:29 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The Sandiganbayan Second Division is expected to issue a decision Wednesday morning on the plunder and money laundering cases against retired Major General Carlos Garcia; his wife Clarita; and their children Ian Carl, Juan Paulo, and Timothy Mark on allegations they amassed over P300 million in ill-gotten wealth while he was in active military service.

The court will resolve the plea bargaining agreement offered by Garcia that was endorsed by the Office of the Special Prosecutor and the Office of the Ombudsman.

The court hearing is set at 10:30 a.m.

Under the deal submitted to the anti-graft court last December 16, Garcia pleaded guilty to lesser offenses of direct bribery and violation of Section 4 (b) of the Anti-Money Laundering Act.

He offered to return to the government unspecified properties.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers refused to divulge the value of properties that Garcia will surrender to the government, and declined to confirm reports that all criminal charges will be dropped against his wife and children.

Garcia was allowed to post bail last Friday and was released from the Philippine National Police Custodial Center early Saturday.

It prompted court spokesman and executive clerk of court Renato Bocar to declare that the plea bargain deal was presumably approved.

Plea bargain deal still under wraps

In a letter sent to the Office of the President, former Tanodbayan Simeon Marcelo and former Special Prosecutor Dennis Villa-Ignacio questioned the role of the Sandiganbayan Second Division in suppressing information about the plea bargaining agreement.

“May ilang mamamahayag na nagtangkang usisain at silipin ang umuugong na sabwatan may ilang buwan na rin ang nakakaraan, ngunit ang kasunduan umano ay ipinagkait at itinago ng Sandiganbayan at ng Office of the Ombudsman. Hindi po ba nililitis na kaso at lahat ng inihahain ditto ay “public record” na maaring usisain ng mamamayan?” the letter said.

The Second Division is headed by Presiding Justice and chairman Edilberto Sandoval with Associate Justices Teresita Baldos and Samuel Martires as members.

All pleadings, orders, and resolutions relative to the plea bargaining agreement were kept off limits to reporters.

Court officials invoked the sub judice rule against making public details of a case pending court resolution.

Documents filed with the court docket were also immediately taken straight to the justices’ chambers. 

Deal hatched in August?

A document obtained by ABS-CBN News, meanwhile, showed that as early as August 11, 2010, the Sandiganbayan had issued a resolution ordering banks, the Land Transportation Office, the Armed Forces and Police Savings and Loans Association, and other agencies to undertake the transfer to the government of assets enumerated by Garcia in the plea bargaining agreement.

The document showed that Garcia has already executed deeds of conveyances, turning over ownership of his assets in favor of the state.

Marcelo and Villa-Ignacio said the Office of the Solicitor General has the legal personality to question the validity of the Garcia deal before the Sandiganbayan.

They offered their assistance in filing the motion for intervention with a request to annul the plea bargaining deal, as well as doing research and drafting of pleadings.

They stressed that those who were involved in negotiating the deal with Garcia and his lawyers should be prosecuted for their “deliberate efforts to thwart and sabotage the government’s efforts to stem the tide of corruption.”