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Hearings on plea bargain deal good for country

/ 06:00 AM April 25, 2011

THE HEARINGS conducted by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee and the Committee on Justice of the House of Representatives on the plea bargain agreement between the Office of the Ombudsman (under Merceditas Gutierrez) and former military comptroller Carlos F. Garcia have been fortuitous for the country. Garcia is facing a non-bailable charge of plunder, with lesser offenses of direct bribery and money laundering. Former Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo, who initially filed the charges against Garcia, consistently maintained that the evidence against Garcia was strong.

Ombudsman Gutierrez once threw out Garcia’s plea for bail contending that the evidence against him was strong. In a strange turnaround, the Ombudsman’s office found the evidence weak and entered into a plea bargain agreement with Garcia. The accused was released on P60,000 bail for the lesser charges of direct bribery and money laundering. In turn, Garcia agreed to return the amount of P135 million to the government.

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It is obvious that only a court of justice, in this case, the Sandiganbayan, can order the release on bail of Garcia. Some legal minds are apprehensive that if the charge of plunder is later pursued, the defense might claim double jeopardy. Should this situation materialize, the people who insidiously plotted to put the government in a bind should be exposed and prosecuted in accordance with law.

What followed were the sensational revelations of former AFP budget officer Lt. Col. George Rabusa and his assistant, Lt. Col. Antonio Lim. Both worked under Garcia when he was the AFP comptroller. Millions of funds were given to chiefs of staff and other high-ranking military officials. Chiefs of staff were given a P10-million “startup fund,” a P5-million “personal” fund every month, and a P50-million “pabaon” or sendoff money upon retiring. Rabusa was not certain in some instances if Garcia actually turned over the money to the intended recipients.

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Rabusa himself is facing a perjury charge for misdeclaration in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN). He admitted receiving P500,000 a month. His total take is estimated at P50 million. He asked to be considered a state witness. A thorough investigation of the illegal disbursement of funds in the AFP is in order. All recipients of these illegal disbursements from way back in the past to the present should be identified, prosecuted and convicted. This “traditional” payola should be stopped.

A similar investigation, culminating in the conviction of malefactors, should be conducted in the Philippine National Police. Years back, PNP generals and their wives were discovered carrying inexplicably enormous amounts of euros in Russia.

—LEONCIO DE MESA,
UP Diliman, Quezon City

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TAGS: Crime and Law and Justice, Graft & Corruption, Military
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