Ex-Ombud official loses appeal over plea bargain mess

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

THE Court of Appeals (CA) has affirmed its decision not to block the Palace investigation and upheld the dismissal of former Special Prosecutor Wendell Sulit for entering into a controversial plea bargain deal with suspected plunderer Carlos Garcia in 2010.

In a resolution, the CA Special Former Eighth Division said Sulit’s motion for reconsideration to its August 27, 2013 decision lacked merit.

Sulit was dismissed from office in late 2012 for brokering the deal at the Sandiganbayan that allowed Garcia, a retired military comptroller, to plead guilty on lesser offenses of money laundering and direct bribery in exchange for returning P135 million out of his P303-million ill-gotten wealth.

Garcia then turned over to the government multi-million peso cash deposits, seven motor vehicles, and real properties including the P43.1-million Trump condominium unit in New York City but the Supreme Court (SC) stayed the agreement last year in response to the government’s appeal.

Before she was sacked, Sulit told the CA that the Office of the President has no power to discipline her as she was only the acting special prosecutor when the agreement took place.

However, the CA said she is not an impeachable officer like her boss, the Ombudsman, “making her clearly under the disciplinary power of the Office of the President.”

The SC also maintained the President’s jurisdiction over the Office of the Special Prosecutor in a ruling on January 28, saying the position is not “constitutionally within” the Office of the Ombudsman, which enjoys political independence under the Constitution. (Sunnex)

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