MANILA, Jan. 7, 2010—A Catholic prelate is opposing the plea bargain agreement and wants a former military official accused of plunder punished if proven guilty to serve as a lesson to other corrupt officials.

Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo feels the deal between state prosecutors and former Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia, if pursued, would “weaken more” the country’s justice system.

The former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) also expressed fear that the agreement could be abused for the “convenience” of corrupt officials.

“It will be not be a good example… and that way of doing it might be sought and be applied for similar and other cases of corruption,” Lagdameo said.

According to the prelate, granting of a plea bargain agreement won’t help solve the rampant corruption in the government. “It might worsen the problem instead,” he said.

“First of all, we need to determine the truth here. There should be a call for justice and for truth seeking,” Lagdameo said. “That agreement may not be based on truth and justice.”

Asked for his reaction to allegations that former President Gloria Arroyo may be behind the deal, he added the more the people should oppose it.

“If in case the former president also has a similar case, the same principle could be invoked. It does not really eradicate corruption in government,” said Lagdameo.

He urged the Aquino administration to fight the agreement that would allow Garcia to escape charges for allegedly stealing P303 million from the state coffers while serving as armed forces comptroller.

“The search for truth must continue so that justice will be achieved,” the prelate said.

On Wednesday, Aquino government’s chief lawyer filed an urgent motion with the Sandiganbayan asking it to revoke its approval of the plea bargain.

Under the deal, Garcia will return to the government some P150 million believed to be ill-gotten for pleading guilty to a lesser offense instead of plunder which is punishable by life imprisonment.

Garcia had been released by the court on Dec. 16 after posting P60,000 bail, or P30,000 for each of the offense of direct bribery and violation of the Anti-money laundering law, pending sentencing. (CBCPNews)