Sandigan denies bid of ex-AFP comptroller Garcia’s kin to suspend civil case trial
MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan has denied the request of former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) comptroller Carlos Garcia’s family to suspend proceedings on civil cases filed against them while the trial of a “closely-related” criminal case is still ongoing.
The anti-graft court’s Fourth Division did not buy the explanation of the accused, stressing in a resolution dated September 10 that it is not justified to suspend proceedings on the forfeiture cases — docketed as Civil Case No. 0193 and 0196 — pending the decision on a criminal case before the Sandiganbayan’s Special Second Division.
Garcia’s wife Clarita and their children Ian Carl, Juan Paolo, and Timothy Mark filed last February 13 a motion to suspend proceedings for the forfeiture cases that involves several of the Garcia family’s assets that were allegedly obtained illegally.
The case with the Special Second Division that they were referring to is a plunder charge against them, labeled as Civil Case No. 28017, which was filed after a scandal in 2005 revealed that then Maj. Gen. Garcia has not been filing his Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) properly.
He was accused of amassing P303 million in ill-gotten wealth.
While the Fourth Division chaired by Associate Justice Alex Quiroz said that “[…] the Court concludes that the issues in Criminal Case No. 28017 are indeed related to the issues in Civil Cases Nos. 0193 and 0196,” it “believes that the suspension of the current proceedings is unwarranted under the doctrine of the prejudicial question.”
Instead, the Fourth Division said that what should be suspended is the plunder trial before the Special Second Division, and not the civil cases in its chamber.
The controversy involving Garcia started after two of his three sons were detained at the San Francisco International Airport for possession of a huge amount of undeclared cash – $100,000. The military official was subsequently as AFP comptroller.
To date, the government is still trying to recover some assets of the Garcias, as the Supreme Court halted the enforcement of the plea bargain agreement struck between then-Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez and the family. Under the agreement, Garcia was to plead guilty to lesser and bailable offenses of direct bribery and money laundering and return P135 million in assets to the government.
The high court’s move to stop the plea bargain agreement in 2013 was in response to a petition filed by the Office of the Solicitor General against the deal.
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