Press Release
April 13, 2013


Sen. Chiz Escudero expressed full backing for Malacañang's decision to contest the Sandiganbayan's decision to uphold the plea bargaining agreement between the Ombudsman and former Armed Forces comptroller retired Maj. Gen. Carlos F. Garcia while dismissing Garcia's plunder case at the same time.

Escudero said the decision sends a wrong signal on the country's commitment to anti-corruption efforts primarily within the military establishment which has been identified in a recent Senate probe as a major source of corrupt practices.

US authorities arrested the sons of Garcia for dollar smuggling in 2003 that sparked a Senate investigation on fund irregularities in the AFP.

Under the plea bargain agreement, Garcia admitted guilt to a lesser offense of direct bribery in exchange for returning to the government the amount of P135 million.

Escudero said the Sandiganbayan decision runs counter to the ideals of good governance since the plea bargain clearly offered a way out for Garcia to account for the estimated P303 million he allegedly misappropriated from the AFP funds.

Escudero said the implication of the Sandiganbayan decision also goes beyond the Garcia case as the plea bargaining agreement it validated was among the impeachment allegations against former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, who pushed for the negotiated settlement with Garcia. The Sandiganbayan ruling in effect vindicated Gutierrez which has a telling effect on the drive of President Aquino to rid the government of irregularities, he added.

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee in 2011 held an exhaustive investigation into fund diversions in AFP, and in its report recommended the filing of charges against Garcia and other high-level AFP officers.

The committee also ruled that the plea bargain was void since it does not have basis and lacked full restitution.

The panel also recommended passing a law on plea bargaining to ensure that the proper offices and institutions have a direct participation in its entry and approval.

As part of its recommendations, the committee also sought the passage of a law that would amend the Ombudsman Act of 1989 and another law that designates the Department of Justice to prosecute the employees of the Ombudsman.

The Sandiganbayan decision appears to run counter against Aquino administration's "daang matuwid" initiatives and sets back gains in making public officials accountable to the people, Escudero said.

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