MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang is determined to fight the Sandiganbayan ruling affirming the plea bargain agreement forged years ago between then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez and former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) comptroller Carlos Garcia.
Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima have been told to “take action,” Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang announced on Thursday, at a briefing in the Palace.
“We are very disturbed by this development,” said Carandang of the 73-page joint resolution promulgated Wednesday by the anti-graft court’s Special Second Division through Associate Justice Samuel Martirez.
The resolution denied the motion filed by government lawyers, through the Office of the Solicitor-General, to intervene “for utter paucity of merit.”
It also dismissed the solicitor general’s recommendation to set aside the plea bargaining agreement.
“As you know, this issue led to the impeachment of former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, and so we’re certainly disturbed by this latest development,” said Carandang, when asked how this would affect President Aquino’s anti-corruption drive, especially involving members of the bureaucracy, whether current and former. The House of Representatives voted to impeach Gutierrez in 2011. Gutierrez opted to resign before facing a Senate trial.
“Right now, the Department of Justice and the Solicitor General are studying what legal options we may take, but we don’t have a definite course of action right now. But the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Solicitor General are on it,” said Carandang.
He issued a categorical answer when asked about chances, if any, of Garcia evading prosecution. “We’re prepared to take action to contest that,” said Carandang.
Asked about the President’s reaction to the anti-graft court decision, the secretary added: “I haven’t spoken to him yet about that, so I wouldn’t know what his personal reaction was. But let’s wait for the recommendations of DOJ and SolGen, and then we can decide what concrete steps can be taken.”