I watched the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee last night conducting a hearing on the grand thief by the army’s top brass and I was appalled by the galling conduct the generals played hide and seek of the millions of dollars and pesos they purloined from government contractors to the prejudice of the treasury. I kept turning on bed after I switch the TV off, fearful that if I doze off, I could have a nightmare I could not awake from.
I also noticed that Senator Antonio Trillanes was not in the hearing. He should have been made as an ad hoc member of this Committee because as a military officer, he knew how his comrades-in-arms, play-out this game of hide and seek: “I hid the loot, it is mine if you don’t find it.”
Sen. Trillanes may not be the best diplomat in town and I may have an ambivalent attitude towards him, but you could almost hear this Gentleman from Albay, tongue-lashing these slithering low-lives living in plush condos and expensive houses with fat dollar and peso accounts in various banks invoking their right “against self-incrimination.”
These thieves have a singular addiction to the constitution’s bill of right that says that no person should be compelled to testify against himself and thus they can refuse to admit that they are criminals and brigands but were disingenuous enough of the other provision of the same document that says “public office is a public trust” and that public officers and employees must, at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency; act with patriotism and justice and lead modest lives.
That it is alright to read the constitution piecemeal if it will shield your crime, but trash it if it will allow the government to recover its loss. See how these soldiers and officers who flaunt the idea that they are the protector of the people rob the people with impunity and without moral compunction and would argue that any answer to the questions asked of them in Congress might ruin their reputation and that of others involved. ( I would love to hear Sen. Trillanes say, “you have no reputation to protect”).
Sen. Trillanes’s presence could have been a counter-weight to the lackluster performance of Sen. Enrile who appeared swooning over one thief that a double jeopardy had probably set in because the accused was already arraigned for a lesser-included offense of “indirect bribery” and so plunder cannot be revived anymore. He seems to toy with the idea that a plea bargaining was a contract between the accused and the government which seems to run along the concept that if I return part of the loot just slap my hands. The government cannot “renege” ( and I could not believe hearing Sen. Enrile actually used the term “renege”) on its commitment with Gen. Garcia that he can walk free because the government had already agreed with the deal.
Only former Solicitor General Frank Chavez brought up the idea that if Gen. Garcia was convicted of the crime of “indirect bribery”, then he should have at least served six years in jail, the penalty for indirect bribery, a clear argument that the plea agreement was not fully executed, therefore the government can back out from it.
But any lawyer will tell you that any contract that is onerous to the government is voidable. Inasmuch as the partial return of the loot in exchange for “dismissal of plunder” was inimical to the best interest of the government, it can get out from this deal.
Nobody from among these gentlemen in the Senate had brought this out.
The plea bargaining agreement provided for in RA 8493 and implemented by SC Circular 38-98 provides that an accused could enter a plea for a lesser included offense from which he was originally charged with. The term lesser included offense means that the elements of both offenses are identical only that some other elements are lacking in the other.
The best example is frustrated murder. One charged with it could plea for serious physical injuries. The intent to murder was absent, only the intent to do physical harm was present.
The case of Gen. Garcia is very unique. He was charged with plunder under R.A. 7080 which defines the crime as an act of a government official, or through his relatives or other persons, using his office in amassing illegaly an aggregate sum of Fifty Million Pesos (P50,000,000.00).
Gen. Garcia was charged with plunder of P300 Million, and he promised to return the sum of P108 Million so he can validly enter into a plea bargaining. The amount he had amassed and promised to return (or he had already returned, per Sen. Enrile) was well way above the benchmark of P50 Million set by RA 7080.
And why is he qualified to enter into a plea for indirect bribery when what he had admitted to have amassed and willing to return was way above the plunder amount prescribed by the law?
Go figure out why these bozos in Congress did not bring this anomalous situation during the hearing.