Chiz says Garcia lost right against self incrimination

Former military general Carlos Garcia has forfeited all his rights and privileges against self-incrimination and therefore cannot invoke it to evade questions from the Senate blue ribbon probe, Senator Chiz Escudero said.

Escudero, chairman of the Senate committee on national defense and security, slammed Garcia’s continuous use of his right against self-incrimination when senators asked him regarding the circumstances surrounding his case.

“He cannot and should not be allowed anymore to invoke that privilege since he has already pleaded guilty though to a lesser offense when he entered into a plea bargain with the Office of the Ombudsman through the Office of the Special Prosecutors,” Escudero said.

“By virtue of his guilty plea, he is forced to good to tell all. There is nothing more incriminating than pleading guilty. What self-incrimination is he talking about?” Escudero pointed out.

Garcia has forged a deal with prosecutors of the Office of the Ombudsman, pleading guilty to direct bribery and violation of the anti-money laundering law, offenses lesser than the actual plunder and perjury cases filed against him in 2004.

The senator expressed disagreement with the plea bargaining deal between Garcia and the Office of the Ombudsman, describing it as a futile deal.

“What are we really after? Prosecute plunderers as a warning and example to those who have the evil intent, or to recover money? In Garcia’s plea deal, we have settled for much less,” Escudero said.

Escudero also said he was wary of the plea agreement since there was a possibility that the latter’s sentence might even be reduced to lesser time because of mitigating circumstances.

“Since he pleaded guilty, there is chance that the court will reduce his penalty for bribery from the current medium to maximum term (six to12 years imprisonment) to minimum to medium term (six to eight years imprisonment). There is a disturbing chance that his penalty is already covered by time served, meaning the years have already been counted since the time he entered jail in 2004,” he explained.

Earlier in the hearing, Escudero refused to inhibit from the proceedings despite a request from former armed forces chief Angelo Reyes due to his public statements against him. Aside from Escudero, Reyes, through his lawyer, had requested Senators Miriam Santiago, Jinggoy Estrada and Antonio Trillanes to inhibit in the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing.

“I would like to manifest that I’m not inhibiting from this proceeding and hearing for a simple reason that we are not sitting as judges nor performing any quasi-judicial function before this august committee,” the senator explained.#