Ex-military comptroller accused of plunder found guilty of lesser offenses

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 06 2022 12:04 PM

Former Armed Forces of the Philippines comptroller Carlos Garcia, who was originally facing plunder and money laundering cases, was found guilty by the Sandiganbayan 2nd Division of the lesser offenses of direct bribery and facilitating money laundering.

In a decision promulgated on July 5, 2022, the anti-graft court rendered judgment after the dismissal by the Supreme Court of the petition for certiorari of the Office of the Solicitor General became final and executory on July 15, 2021.

The petition for certiorari of the OSG challenged the plea bargaining agreement between Garcia and the Office of the Ombudsman which led to the downgrading of the cases.

Garcia was originally charged with plunder and money laundering in the informations filed by the Office of the Ombudsman before the Sandiganbayan in 2005 and 2009, respectively.

Garcia pleaded not guilty of plunder and money laundering but under the plea bargaining agreement, he pleaded guilty of direct bribery and facilitating money laundering.

“The pleas of guilty to the aforementioned lesser offenses was made pursuant to a plea-bargaining agreement between the Office of the Special Prosecutor of the Office of the Ombudsman, on one hand, and accused Garcia on the other hand, which filed with the court on March 16, 2010,” the anti-graft court noted in its decision penned by Division Chairperson Oscar Herrera, with the concurrence of Associate Justices Michael Frederick Musngi and Arthur Malabaguio.

Also under the plea-bargaining agreement approved by then Ombudsman Merceditas Guttierez, Garcia offered to cede P135.433 million worth of cash, real and personal properties owned by himself and his family in favor of the government.

For direct bribery, Garcia was sentenced by the Sandiganbayan to suffer imprisonment of 4 to 8 years and pay a fine amounting to P406.3 million or 3 times the total value of the gifts received as per plea bargaining agreement.

For facilitating money laundering, Garcia was sentenced to imprisonment of 4 to 6 years with a fine of P1.5 million.

Garcia is currently detained at the New Bilibid Prison.

The plunder and money laundering cases stemmed from the alleged acquisition of ill-gotten wealth by Garcia and his co-accused family members: wife Clarita and sons Ian Carl, Juan Paulo and Timothy Mark.

According to the Ombudsman, the accused conspired in receiving commissions, gifts, kickbacks and other pecuniary benefits like “shopping money or gratitude money” from James and Jane Does in connection with government contracts by reason of the position held by Garcia who retired with the rank of major general.

The plunder charge came after the seizure in the United States of $100,000 of undeclared cash from Garcia’s sons Juan Paolo and Ian Carl in 2003.

As he entered his guilty pleas to the lesser offenses, Garcia also stated that his family members, who did not participate in the proceedings, had no involvement in the cases filed against them.

“Let the cases be archived with respect to accused Clarita D. Garcia, Ian Carl D. Garcia, Juan Paulo D. Garcia, Timothy Mark D. Garcia, John Does, James and Jane Does to be revived upon their arrest or voluntary surrender. Let alias warrants of arrest be issued against them,” the court said.

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