Press Release
March 10, 2011

Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Calls for Gutierrez Impeachment
Probe on Garcia deal ends

The Blue Ribbon Committee today called for the impeachment of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez and the dismissal of the special prosecutors who handled the plea bargaining agreement with retired Armed Forces Major General Carlo Garcia, saying they were "grossly negligent" and may have deliberately weakened the case against the former AFP comptroller.

The calls for impeachment and resignation are contained in the Committee Report on the probe of the plea bargaining agreement.

In a press briefing, Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Chair Senator TG Guingona III said that Gutierrez and the special prosecutors were not only grossly negligent in handling the case, but were also "alarmingly inconsistent in their stand on Garcia's case."

Guingona pointed out the instances that showed gross negligence on the part of the Ombudsman and the prosecutorial team: First, the consent of the offended party, the Filipino people - represented by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Department of Justice and the Solicitor General - was not obtained for the plea bargaining agreement; Second, the prosecution did not insist on the return of the P128 Million earlier withdrawn by Gen. Garcia; Third, the plea bargaining agreement was disadvantageous to the government since the cases against the family of Gen. Garcia were dropped and Gen. Garcia was only required to return P135 Million out of the P300 Million under litigation.

Guingona emphasized that these acts constitute "grave inexcusable negligence."

Guingona also said the Committee was "very disappointed" with the way Special Prosecutor Sulit and her team handled the Garcia case.

Guingona stated that during the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearings, Special Prosecutor Sulit admitted that her team merely relied on the evidence collected by former Ombudsman Marcelo.

The prosecutorial team also admitted that they did not seek assistance from the Armed Forces of the Philippines in obtaining documents against Garcia. They also did not give much value to the testimony of Heidi Mendoza.

Guingona stressed that this "lack of prosecutorial zeal" is indeed "the height of prosecutorial misconduct." Guingona also highlighted the fact that the Ombudsman and the prosecutorial team have been inconsistent in their stand against Garcia.

"Two months before the plea bargaining agreement, the Sandiganbayan issued a resolution denying the motion for bail of Gen. Garcia saying that the evidence against him is strong," Guingona said.

"And then, upon entering into the plea bargaining agreement, the Ombudsman and the prosecutorial team insisted that the evidence against Gen. Garcia is weak," Guingona added.

Again, three days after, the Ombudsman and the prosecutorial team again opposed the motion of Gen. Garcia for bail arguing that the evidence against him is strong, Guingona pointed out.

Guingona asserted that Ombudsman and the prosecutorial team deliberately misled the people by taking an inconsistent stand on the Garcia case.

Guingona also explained that the possibility of impeachment is "a remedy that can be resorted to in removing an incompetent Ombudsman."

He said that "considering the manifest disregard of the Ombudsman to the rule of law and the perpetuation of a culture of lack of prosecutorial zeal that she has institutionalized in the Office of the Ombudsman, she has clearly betrayed the public trust."

Guingona also underlined that the Office of the President has the "statutory authority and mechanism to discipline and remove" the prosecutorial team on the grounds of "culpable violation of the Constitution, bribery, graft and corruption, and betrayal of the public trust."

Guingona also raised some of the measures that the legislature may undertake to prevent the Garcia case from happening again.

Among these is the passage of the Freedom of Information Act which will ensure that the "secrecy" behind the Gen. Garcia plea bargaining deal will not happen again.

Another possible measure is the prohibition on entering into plea bargaining agreements in cases of plunder.

Lastly, the Anti-Money Laudering Act may also be amended to address the issue of individuals withdrawing money from the account before the court issues the freeze order.

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