WHAT WENT BEFORE: The case of Gen. Carlos Garcia
In December 2005, a military court found former Armed Forces comptroller Carlos Garcia guilty of violating Articles of War 96 and 97 (or conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, and conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline) for not declaring his true assets and for holding permanent-resident status in the United States.
The retired major general was sentenced to two years of hard labor and dismissed dishonorably from the service, thus forfeiting his retirement benefits.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Office of the Ombudsman had separately investigated Garcia following the detention of two of his three sons at the San Francisco International Airport in December 2003 for not declaring that they were carrying $100,000 in cash.
The inquiries led to Garcia’s sacking as military comptroller and chief of plans and programs. He held the comptrollership from 2001 to April 2004.
P36k a month
In October 2004, the Ombudsman found that Garcia, who earned a monthly income of P36,015, had not declared P143 million worth of assets in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) for a number of years.
The Ombudsman ordered his suspension for six months and petitioned the Sandiganbayan antigraft court for the forfeiture of his assets.
Garcia was confined to quarters and ordered subjected to court martial.
The Court of Appeals later ordered the freeze of 40 bank accounts of Garcia and his family. The US government also froze Garcia’s real estate holdings in the states of New York and Ohio.
In November 2004, the Ombudsman filed four counts of perjury against him in connection with the SALN he filed from 1997 to 2000.
In June 2005, Garcia was arrested following the filing of plunder charges in the Sandiganbayan against him, his wife Clarita and their three sons for acquiring P303 million in ill-gotten wealth.
In March 2010, Garcia pleaded not guilty to the money-laundering charge filed by the Ombudsman against him and his family for allegedly conspiring to deposit and withdraw illegally acquired huge amounts using numerous bank accounts between July 2002 and July 2004.
In December 2010, the Sandiganbayan ordered Garcia’s release. He was detained for six years while on trial for amassing P303 million in ill-gotten wealth.
Earlier, Garcia was able to strike a plea bargain with state prosecutors.
Under the agreement, he pleaded guilty to the lesser and bailable offenses of direct bribery and money laundering and was no longer charged with plunder, which carries the penalty of life imprisonment.
He was obliged to turn over to the government P135 million in assets and was released on bail of P60,000.
But President Aquino ordered Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa to review the plea bargain. The Senate blue ribbon committee also opened an inquiry into the agreement.
In May 2011, the Sandiganbayan approved the plea bargain. But the following month, the Senate blue ribbon committee declared the agreement “void” and without basis and said Garcia’s arraignment and posting of bail should be nullified.
The committee also declared support for the Solicitor General’s move to intervene in the case, and pursue the plunder charges against Garcia. Inquirer Research
Sources: PDI Archives, afp.mil.ph, philippinelaw.info
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