Press Release
January 19, 2011

Transcript of Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago's interview

On the Garcia plea bargain

The plea bargain in the Garcia case is an entire stinking mess. It's a big stink to anyone who has been in trial court.

Number one , the plea bargain, according to the decisions of the Supreme Court , is allowed by the Rules of Court. There's nothing we can do about it--it's in the statute books. But the Supreme Court said, the plea bargain must be mutually satisfactory or mutually convenient. So who are the two parties here? The prosecutor representing the government, and the accused who is presenting his defense. According to the decisions of the court, in a 2009 case, the plea bargain must be mutually satisfactory to both sides. The Garcia plea bargain is satisfactory to him. Boy, is he having it easy! He is charged with 300 million pesos that is stolen from the coffers of our government , that is why he is charged with plunder. And what is he offering? On the one hand, we are getting 1.3 million, and then he goes away scot free. Not only that. That in itself is a violation of the Supreme Court ruling on the subject matter. Whatever the Supreme Court says is already part of the law. When you apply the rules on plea bargaining, you should remember the rules the Supreme Court laid down.

Ngayon, ano ang pakinabang ng gobyerno? You might say the evidence is weak, aba kung tatanggapin natin iyan, bakit pa sila nag-file ng case in the first place? Because both the prosecutor who wants to agree to the plea bargain and the prosecutor who conducted the preliminary investigations and filed the proper criminal information belong to the same prosecution service. Akala ng prosecution service meron silang sapat na ebidensya. Ngayong andoon na sa korte, umuurong na. papayagan ba natin iyan? E di wala nang kwenta ang preliminary investigation. Magtawaran na lang tayo palagi. Of course it opens Pandora's Box. They can negotiate everything! The Supreme Court said in one case that you cannot just make a criminal case a subject of bargaining per se. Hindi naman ito palengke na magtatawaran lang tayo. Meron lang mga rason iyan.

Fore example, in the Estrada case in 2007, one of the defendants--Charlie "Atong" Ang--pleaded guilty to a lesser offense. So that was a plea bargain, but he entered into the plea bargain on the condition that he would name the other members of the criminal conspiracy, or the other persons who, together with him, are said to have violated a criminal law. So meron siyang function. It became satisfactory to government to accept the plea bargain because they might be able to convict the other people. Ngayon dito, hindi naman siya ang testigo e. He is the accused. So the reasoning behind the plea bargaining of Atong Ang does not apply to this case. Dapat tanggapin ang plea bargain niya basta ituro niya ang mga kasabwat niya.

And my goodness me, sintido kumon lang iyon e. pangulo ka ng departamento mo e,mag-isa kang nakaupo, tapos may lima kang chiefs-of-staff, tapos meron kang military comptroller. Ibig mong sabihin na si military comptroller mag-isa lang siyang nagmaniobra ng 300 million pesos? Anong ginagawa ni secretary of defense diyan? Plus this is a cop out. Sinasabi ngayon ni former defense secretary "wala akong alam diyan. Dapat ang mga chiefs-of-staff ko ang imbestigahan". He is saving his neck and throwing his former chiefs of staff to the wolves. Boy, that's cowardly! Para bang nagbabanggan kayo sa labanan tapos sasabihin ng heneral sa likuran na "ayan, kainin niyo na lang mga buwaya ang aking mga tauhan, huwag niyo lang akong pakialaman dito." What happened to the principle of command responsibility, which is not only a principle in military law but also in criminal law or even in administrative law? In charge ka ng departamento mo, e di pananagutan mo iyan. Hindi mo pwedeng ituro na "marami kasi akong tauhan kaya bahala na sila, wala akong pakialam sa ginagawa nila." That is exactly what you are supposed to do when you are the head of a department. You have the power not only of supervision but also of control�the power to control, alter, modify or set aside the functions of your subordinates. So if you assume the power of a department secretary, you assume as well any liability that your subordinate may have committed with opportunity for you to have corrected him.

Can the plea bargain still be revised?

I understand that the plea bargain has not yet been approved by Sandigan. I understand also that some claim that it already has been approved. We are in a state of uncertainty on the status. But in any event, assuming the worst that it has already been approved by the Sandigan, Sandigan can always reverse itself.

Assuming for the sake of argument that the Sandigan has made a decision and that a motion for reconsideration has been denied, the OSG can go to the Supreme Court on a petition for certiorari.

Are there sanctions for prosecutors taking a dive?

Absolutely, that is corruption. That is direct bribery. Kung tatanggapin itong paliwanag na ito, e di wag na lang tayong maglitis pa sa korte, suhulan mo na lang ang prosecutor tapos na. Kung nasa kanila lang at hawak nilang buo, kung pwede mong ituloy iyan o ituloy pero mas maliit nag penalty mo, para na rin silang judge, they will then have the power to sentence the accused, in effect.

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