Prosecutor in Maj Gen Garcia plunder case officially dismissed

MANILA, Philippines – The head of the Ombudsman’s prosecution arm who handled the plea bargain case of former Major General Carlos Garcia has been officially dismissed from government service effective Tuesday, January 7.

President Benigno Aquino III first ordered the dismissal of Wendell Barreras-Sulit in September 2012 after she approved the plea bargain agreement which downgraded his P300-million plunder case to direct bribery. Sulit was also among the so-called midnight appointees of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales enforced a December 20 memorandum issued by the Office of the President and which declared Sulit’s post in the Office of the Special Prosecutor vacant.

Released late Monday afternoon, Morales said Malacañang had effectively denied Sulit’s motion for reconsideration and affirmed its previous July 2013 decision.

In her memorandum, Morales said that Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur H. Carandang has been designated in a concurrent capacity as “Acting Special Prosecutor with full powers, considering that the position of Special Prosecutor is deemed vacant.”

Carandang was appointed by the President Overall Deputy Ombudsman on October 14 last year, taking the place of Orlando Casimiro who retired on Aug 23, 2013.

Unhappy Aquino

As head of the Office of the Special Prosecutor, Sulit was supposed to have a fixed 7-year term which was cut to 3 by Aquino. Remaining under the Office of the President, Sulit could be dismissed based on an administrative offense.

Previous reports had tagged the Barreras and Garcias as being family friends in Abra. Aquino was reportedly unhappy about the plea bargain given the strength of the evidence in the plunder case.

Sulit had challenged Aquino’s directive before the Court of Appeals but this was dismissed in a ruling promulgated on Aug 27, 2013.

The case against Garcia, whose sons were arrested in 2003 at a US airport for smuggling dollars, exposed systemic corruption in the military. He was accused of converting millions of military funds into cash that went to his personal coffers.

The plea bargain allowed Garcia, his wife Clarita, and sons Ian Carl, Juan Paulo, and Timothy Mark to walk away from plunder charges in exchange for his pleading guilty to lesser offenses of direct bribery and facilitating money laundering. – Rappler.com