• High Court stops Garcia plea deal

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    THE Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday stopped the Sandiganbayan from issuing a decision on the plea-bargaining agreement between retired Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia and the Office of the Ombudsman.

    The High Court granted the petition of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to enjoin the Sandiganbayan from continuing with the promulgation of judgment on the plea-bargaining agreement. The SC’s Third Division issued a temporary restraining order stopping the anti-graft court’s Special Second Division from acting on the case. The TRO also stopped the Sandiganbayan from allowing Garcia to post bail.

    Under the deal, Garcia will return P135 million of the P303 million he was accused of amassing while was military comptroller. In return, his case will be reduced to bribery, which will allow him to post bail.

    The Sandiganbayan approved the deal in April, saying it was in the best interest of government. The anti-graft court also rejected the plea of the Office of the Solicitor General to intervene in the case.

    In their petition to the Supreme Court, Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza and OSG lawyers argued that unless the Sandiganbayan is stopped from acting on the case, “there is a clear possibility that it will render judgment and thereby render the present petition moot and academic to the grave damage and prejudice of the Republic and the Filipino people.”

    In December 2010, Garcia was granted bail but in September 2011, he was ordered arrested after the Judge Advocate General’s Office convicted him of violations of Articles of War 96 and 97 for his untruthful declarations in his 2002 and 2003 statements of assets, liabilities and net worth.

    Malacañang welcomed the Supreme Court decision.

    “The issuance of a temporary restraining order against the questioned plea bargain is a welcome development, given the position taken by the government as represented by the Office of the Solicitor General,” Palace deputy spokesman Abigail Valte said.

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