By Mario J. Mallari
The Daily Tribune
Former military comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia was arrested yesterday by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in compliance with President Aquino’s order for the implementation of the two-year sentence handed by the general court martial in 2005 for violations of Articles of War, with the Palace making sure that nobody steals the thunder from the arrest telling reporters that Garcia being sent to the National Bilibid Prison was the result of a direct order from Aquino.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin confirmed the arrest of Garcia, who was originally accused of plunder for allegedly amassing more than P300 million of unexplained wealth during his incumbency as AFP deputy chief of staff for comptrollership.
The order for Garcia’s rearrest was based on a 2005 court martial decision that was not acted on by former President Arroyo. Since Arroyo did not make any move on Garcia’s case, the judge advocate general said Garcia will have to serve the full two-year jail term imposed on him.
In 2005, the special general court martial found Garcia guilty of the charges and slapped him two years imprisonment with hard labor and dishonorable discharge from the service. Garcia retired from the military service in November 2004.
However, the court martial sentence was not implemented as it needed approval of the President as the commander in chief.
Arroyo did not act on the sentence slapped by the court martial against Garcia. Gazmin said the conviction was forwarded to the Office of the President for confirmation but “it was never confirmed then.”
AFP-Judge Advocate General Brig. Gen Gilberto Roa said Garcia will now have to serve the full two-year term of his sentence because of the failure of the previous administration to act on his case. Roa said Garcia will also be subjected to hard labor while confined at NBP.
The President, Roa said, has the power to “mitigate” Garcia’s sentence or to “remit” it or credit the time he served under preventive suspension during court martial proceedings, but the previous president did not exercise such power.
Roa said that the two-year sentence imposed on Garcia does not cover his cases pending other courts like the Sandiganbayan. Garcia is out on bail after the Ombudsman allowed a plea agreement for lesser offense of direct bribery and graft.
“There is an order for General Garcia to be arrested and detained in violations of Articles of War affirmed by the court martial and confirmed by the commander in chief,” said Gazmin. Garcia did not resist arrest.
Garcia, a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 1971, was initially taken into custody by the Intelligence Service of the AFP (Isafp) in Camp Aguinaldo but was later transferred to the National Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa City.
AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Oban Jr. said that he sent Col. Herbert Yambing, AFP-Provost Marshal General, and officials from the AFP-Judge Advocate General’s Office (Jago) to effect the arrest of Garcia at his residence in Quezon City.
“Following the confirmation of our commander in chief pertaining to the sentence, the court sentence of retired Major General Carlos Garcia on violation of Articles of War 96 and 97…we effected the
implementation of the order this morning. At 8:30 a.m., they were able to arrest General Garcia,” said Oban.
Oban said the President Aquino approved the sentence on Sept. 9.
Garcia was charged with Articles of War 96 or conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman, and AW 97 or conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline, for falsifying his statement of assets, liability and network (SALN) in 2002 And 2003and for possessing a US green card while in the active military service.
Roa clarified that Garcia’s detention in Camp Crame, prior to posting bail, was in connection with his pending cases before the Sandiganbayan.
In a press briefing, Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda also claimed the failure of the previous administration to immediately conclude the court martial proceedings against Garcia and the government’s failure to immediately send him to jail had the imprimatur of Arroyo being the commander-in-chief of the AFP.
Lacierda said Garcia could have not dodged imprisonment without Arroyo’s blessing as promised that there will be no VIP treatment to be given to Garcia.
Garcia was arrested in his residence in Quezon City on Friday morning by AFP Provost Marshall personnel after he was found guilty of violating Articles of War 96, or conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman; and Articles of War 97, or conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline.
Garcia was sentenced with two years in prison with hard labor and discharged from service.
According to Lacierda, the prison term meted against Garcia was a result of a court martial proceeding on the basis of alleged misrepresentation of the value of his assets in 2002 and 2003, and for possession of US permanent resident status while still in the active service and is a separate from his graft and corruption case.
“This is a recommendation from the military court system. It was never confirmed by the former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo during her term, so we are merely confirming the decision of the military court or the court martial,” he said.
Garcia was charged with a non-bailable plunder case for embezzling AFP funds but managed to strike a plea deal with Office of the Ombudsman then headed by Merceditas Gutierrez which allowed him to post bail.
The Ombudsman decision to enter into a plea bargain deal drew widespread criticisms against Gutierrez and become the primary basis for the filing of an impeachment case against her. And seeing that there’s no way that she could survive the impeachment, Guttierez resigned .
And with an Aquino appointee – former Justice Conchita Carpio_Morales—taking over the Office of the Ombudsman, hopes are high that Garcia’s case would be reinstated.
Gazmin said Garcia was arrested by a team from the Intelligence Service of the AFP (ISAFP) for violations of Articles of War 96 and 97 as affirmed by the court martial.
An ISAFP team ringed the house of Garcia in Project 6, Quezon City at 8:30 a.m. He was whisked to the ISAFP headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City for processing and will be transferred to the National Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City.
Garcia and another military comptroller, Col. Jacinto Ligot, were accused of taking hundreds of millions of pesos from the military funds during their respective stints.
During the Senate hearings on the alleged corruption in the military service, it was revealed that Garcia was able to withdraw P128 million from his bank accounts while Ligot took out P748 million, both before the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) was able to look into their accounts.