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By Leila B. Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Despite public uproar over the deal, the Sandiganbayan Second Division Monday approved the plea bargain between former military comptroller Carlos Garcia and government prosecutors over his P303-million plunder case.

The ruling was a blow to the anticorruption campaign of President Benigno Aquino III, said supporters of the administration who assailed it as “totally erroneous,” “a disappointing development” and “highly questionable.”

The Sandiganbayan said the weak evidence against Garcia would have led to his acquittal.

In a resolution, the anti-graft court said it approved the agreement because Garcia had complied with its conditions—pleading guilty to the lesser offenses of direct bribery and facilitating money laundering, and transferring P135.433 million of his and his family’s assets to the state.

“Inasmuch as the provisions of the plea bargaining agreement and the concerns of this court about the protection of the government have been fully addressed, there is no reason why this court should withhold approval of the plea bargaining agreement in these cases,” the Sandiganbayan said.

Because of the deal submitted to the anti-graft court for approval, Garcia was allowed to walk out of his Camp Crame detention cell on bail of P60,000 on Dec. 18 last year after six years in detention.

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