Sandiganbayan justices charged over Garcia plea bargain deal

This is a press statement from Akbayan.

Renowned anti-corruption advocates today trooped to the Department of Justice to file a case against Sandiganbayan justices involved in the approval of the controversial plea bargain deal entered into by the Office of the Ombudsman with former Major General Carlos Garcia, who is facing plunder charges.

Former Akbayan Representative Risa Hontiveros, Onward Malinis na Gobyerno (OMG) co-convenor Leah Navarro and retired Brigadier General Danilo Lim filed a joint complaint-affidavit before justice secretary Leila De Lima accusing Sandiganbayan justices Edilberto G. Sandoval, Teresita V. Diaz-Baldos and Samuel R. Martires of issuing an unjust order over its decision granting approval on the Garcia plea bargain agreement.

The complainants asserted the justices “knowingly and willfully” issued an unjust interlocutory order saying the decision was “unfounded and violative of Article 206 of the Revised Penal Code.”

“Apart from the obvious flaws of the plea bargain deal, the decision of the justices to approve an erroneous deal is not only lamentable but also unlawful. The Sandiganbayan justices just exposed their true color on this issue. If they think they can hoodwink the public, they got another thing coming. Katulad ni Merci, may-araw din sila,” Hontiveros said.

According to the Revised Penal Code, any judge who shall knowingly render an unjust interlocutory order or decree shall suffer the penalty of arresto mayor in its minimum period and suspension. However, it also said if a judge acted due to inexcusable negligence or ignorance and the interlocutory order or decree be manifestly unjust, the penalty shall be suspension.

The complainants also stressed how the plea bargain deal was “patently irregular.” The corruption busters said:

1. The agreement works in favor of the accused;
2. The undue haste in the approval of the agreement, as it was approved on the day the resignation of former Ombudsman Merceditas Guttierrez took effect. Irregularity is manifest as the deal was executed way beyond arraignment or even pre-trial as provided in Section 2 Rule 116 of the Rules of Court;
3. The plea bargain agreement failed to secure the consent of the offended party, which is the Armed Forces of the Philippines;
4. The justices unilaterally modified the plea bargain deal, again done without the consent of the offended party;
5. Only a portion of the ill-gotten wealth will be returned to the government;
6. The Garcias get to keep some of the ill-gotten wealth.

“You don’t need to be a lawyer to know that a patent transgression was committed by the justices in approving a defective agreement. Binargain ang hustisya. Nilako sa mga corrupt. Talong talo ang mamamayan dito,” Hontiveros said.

Meanwhile, Lim said the justices’ decision invites further discord among the ranks of the military.

“The decision is not courting closure and justice; what it is inviting is resentment that could lead to a dangerous political friction within the military establishment. Instead of healing old wounds, the plea bargain deal is adding salt to injury, more so, creating new and deep political abrasions inside the military,” Lim said.

Lim said the decision of the anti-graft court must be reversed to help advance reforms in the AFP.

“Lest we forget, one of the institutions gravely bastardized by the likes of Garcia and his patron Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was the military. If we want to see a professional and modern armed forces, those who emasculated it must be held accountable,” Lim said.

For her part, Navarro said the filing of a joint complaint against the justices is testimony that they will wage an all-out campaign against plunder and corruption.

“There will be no let-up against the corrupt. No quarters will be given to those who thrived under the corrupt Arroyo government, and certainly, nothing to would-be corrupt public officials under this new administration,” Navarro concluded.

Here is the copy of the complaint filed today by former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros, Onward Malinis na Gobyerno (OMG) co-convenor Leah Navarro and retired Brigadier General Danilo Lim against the Sandiganbayan justices involved in the approval of the Garcia plea bargain deal before the Department of Justice.

Copy of Complaint against Sandiganbayan Justices