(Sen. Santiago being interviewed by reporters after her speech in the symposium at the Far Eastern University Auditorium on 27 January 2011)
Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, a multi-awarded former RTC judge, said that she finds it “suspicious” that the prosecutors in the Garcia plunder case found no strong evidence, in the light of the legal provision that in a plunder case, it is sufficient to show a pattern of criminal acts.
“The anti-plunder act provides that it is not necessary to prove each and every criminal act, and proof of a mere pattern of criminal acts is enough. Thus, there seems to be no basis for the prosecution’s findings that evidence against Garcia is insufficient,” she said.
Santiago did not appear at the Senate public hearing, because she was guest speaker at FEU, but answered media questions after her speech.
The senator cited the 2001 Court ruling in Estrada v. Sandiganbayan.
“What the prosecution needs to prove beyond reasonable doubt is only a number of acts sufficient to form a combination or series which would constitute a pattern and involving an amount of at least P50 million. There is no need to prove each and every other act alleged in the Information to have been committed by the accused in furtherance of the overall unlawful scheme or conspiracy to amass, accumulate or acquire ill-gotten wealth,” she said.
“To quote the example given by the Supreme Court in Estrada, supposing the accused is charged with committing 50 raids on the public treasury. The prosecution need not prove all these 50 raids, it being sufficient to prove by a pattern of at least two raids beyond reasonable doubt, provided only that they amounted to at least P50 million,” she explained.
“It appears that the whole country, except Garcia and the prosecutors, believe that the evidence against Garcia for plunder is strong,” Santiago said. “How can a soldier who earns P37,000 a month plus allowances amass some P90 million in his private peso accounts and almost $1.9 million in his private dollar accounts in just five years, from 1999 to 2004? Did he win the lotto?”
Santiago said that the prosecutors in the Garcia plunder case can be charged with the crime of Negligence and Tolerance in the Prosecution of Offenses under the Penal Code, if it is proved that they acted with malice and deliberate intent to favor Garcia in the plea bargain deal. She said the Penal Code provision applies to a prosecutor who, knowing that the evidence against the accused is more than sufficient to secure his conviction in court, drops the case to deliberately favor the criminal.