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Senators want Garcia, cohorts put in jail

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Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada and other senators hit on Wednesday the plea bargain agreement between former military comptroller Carlos Garcia and the Ombudsman, saying the controversial general and his alleged cohorts who amassed questionable wealth should be put behind bars.

Estrada and the other senators said Garcia could not have pocketed millions of pesos in just a span of five years without the consent of his superiors in the military.

“The blow must be aimed not solely at the man who was caught red-handed in his act. There must also be action aimed at bringing before the bar of justice those who helped General Garcia in his act of plunder,” Estrada said in his privilege speech.

”For logically, and with all the information we have, this was a crime that could not have been perpetrated by just one man. Like any other member of a large organization, he had to report to others. His actions could not have escaped the attention of others around him,” he added.

Estrada specifically named former Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff and Department of National Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes who, he said, failed to supervise his own people.

”Under his leadership – if such a word can be used to describe his tenure – the AFP was politicized like never before and Garcia’s activities flourished,” Estrada said.

During interpellation, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago also criticized Reyes for feigning knowledge on Garcia’s activities and allegedly conspiring with his military comptroller.

Senator Joker Arroyo said the government should also recover the money and do not allow Garcia and his cohorts “go scot-free.”

Senator Francis Escudero agreed with Arroyo, saying the policy of the Ombudsman should be to prosecute and jail the perpetrator or recover the money.

Estrada said the plea bargain is a mockery of the more than five-year crusade to bring Garcia to justice. Garcia is accused of amassing over P300 million in illegal wealth in the course of his career.

”This representation was astounded by news of a plea bargaining arrangement entered into with General Garcia. I also stand four-square behind all those who regard the plea bargain arrangement as outrageous and unconscionable,” Estrada said.

Estrada said he was shocked and puzzled as to how Garcia’s private peso accounts ballooned from only P5.26 million in 1999 to P92.81 million in 2004 not to mention his dollar account which increased from 19,500 to 1.9 million dollars.

”All these, from a man who was collecting a P37,000 plus allowances month salary from the government as a military official on active duty,” he said.

Estrada urged his colleagues and the government not to stop until Garcia’s enablers “are likewise hauled before the courts and meted the harshest punishment available under our laws.”

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano filed Senate Resolution No. 337, directing the concerned committees to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation into the circumstances surrounding the plea bargaining agreement.

”A plea bargaining deal in this nature if left unchecked and unabated would promote corrupt practices by public officials and render futile the government’s crusade against graft and corruption,” Cayetano said.

The plea bargain deal will allow Garcia to plead guilty to lesser offenses of direct bribery and violation of Anti-Money Laundering Act.

Garcia has been charged with plunder for stealing more than P300 million from government coffers while serving as military comptroller.

By Jelly F. Musico-PNA




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