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Dismissal of prosecutor in Garcia plea bargain affirmed

MANILA, Philippines - The Court of Appeals (CA) has upheld with finality the dismissal of former Special Prosecutor Wendell Barreras-Sulit for approving the plea bargain deal in the plunder case against retired military comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia in 2010.

In a six-page resolution, the special former 8th division of the appellate court upheld its decision on Aug. 23 last year that affirmed Malacañang’s dismissal order against Sulit.

The appellate court denied for lack of merit the motion for reconsideration filed by the former chief prosecutor of the Office of the Ombudsman.

“We have pointed out that we cannot legally and technically ask the executive branch to observe judicial courtesy, but observing the same will not make those involved in administrative proceedings lesser persons, if they, by their own volition, observe the reason for the principle of judicial courtesy – respect of law and legal processes,” read the ruling penned by Associate Justice Agnes Reyes-Carpio.

Associate Justices Ramon Garcia and Priscilla Baltazar-Padilla concurred in this ruling.

Sulit argued Malacañang had no jurisdiction to investigate her or order her dismissal since she was not yet a presidential appointee at the time she recommended the plea bargain deal with Garcia.

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Sulit said she was merely officer-in-charge of the Office of the Special Prosecutor.

But the CA did not agree, saying Sulit was already performing the duties and powers of the office at the time she faced the administrative proceedings.

The court also held Malacañang has jurisdiction over her position, which is not similar to the ombudsman post that is covered by impeachment.

“In here, it is a lot easier as there was no transfer of agency. It was a matter of promotion within the same agency. Petitioner’s present position at the time of the charge is Special Prosecutor, making her clearly under the disciplinary power of the Office of the President,” the CA explained.

Former ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez resigned from her post in 2011 due to mounting pressure over the Garcia plea bargaining agreement.

Under the controversial plea bargain deal, Garcia pleaded guilty on the lesser offenses of money laundering and direct bribery, and agreed to return P135 million of the more than P300 million in public funds he allegedly amassed illegally.

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