Ombudsman turns over P53.6M, 11 titles to Treasury from Garcia’s plea bargain deal

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 13 2022 10:19 PM

Deputy Ombudsman: Garcia’s wife, children still charged with plunder, money laundering

MANILA — The Office of the Ombudsman on Tuesday turned over to the Bureau of Treasury P53.6 million worth of cheque and 11 titles to real properties that were part of the plea bargain agreement of former Armed Forces of the Philippines comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia.

In a brief ceremony at the Ombudsman’s headquarters in Quezon City, Special Prosecutor Edilberto Sandoval led the turnover of the check and the titles to OIC Deputy Treasurer of the Philippines Eduardo Anthony Mariño III.

The titles, pertaining to properties in Baguio City, Batangas, Guimaras and Iloilo, as well as the money, are the final tranche in the P135-million plea bargain deal between Garcia and the Office of the Ombudsman in 2010.

“These properties, plus the cash, will contribute to the national government’s asset management program, which is geared towards improving the delivery of public service to our citizens,” Mariño said.

Former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales previously oversaw the turnover to the national treasury of $100,000 in 2012 and $1.38 million in 2015, which included the proceeds of the sale of a condominium unit at the Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York and the funds from 2 US bank accounts which were traced by US authorities to be part of Garcia’s “laundered” properties.

Garcia was accused of amassing P303 million commissions, gifts, kickbacks and other pecuniary benefits, first discovered when his sons were caught carrying $100,000 in the US. His wife Clarita had claimed the funds were sourced from Garcia's salary as military comptroller and a 2-star Philippine general. 

Charges of plunder and money laundering were filed in 2005 and 2009.

The 2010 plea bargain became controversial because Garcia was allowed to withdraw his “not guilty” plea and plead guilty to the lesser crimes of indirect bribery and facilitating money laundering, during the term of then-Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.

In exchange, he ceded P135 million worth of cash, real and personal property in favor of the government.

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) questioned the deal because the P135M amount is much lower than the P300M he was accused of plundering and laundering.

The Supreme Court, in September 2020, junked the OSG’s challenge, finding no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Sandiganbayan when it approved the deal.

On the basis of the plea bargain agreement, the Sandiganbayan in July this year convicted Garcia and sentenced him to 4-8 years jailtime and P406.3 million fine for direct bribery and 4-6 years imprisonment and P1.5 million fine for facilitating money laundering.

He is detained at the New Bilibid Prison.

On September 7, the Sandiganbayan affirmed Garcia’s conviction but granted his plea for removal of subsidiary imprisonment in case he is unable to pay P406.3 million fine in direct bribery. 

Subsidiary imprisonment means a convict will suffer jailtime if he/she has no property to pay a fine, with 1 day equivalent to the highest minimum wage rate in the Philippines, under the Revised Penal Code.

WIFE, SONS, STILL CHARGED WITH PLUNDER, MONEY LAUNDERING

But in the same resolution, the anti-graft court denied Garcia’s plea to recall the warrant of arrest against his wife and sons for plunder and money laundering.

Deputy Ombudsman for Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices (MOLEO) Jose Balmeo, Jr. confirmed that Garcia’s wife, Clarita, and sons Ian Carl, Juan Paulo and Timothy, are not part of Garcia’s plea bargain agreement and they still face plunder and money laundering charges.

“They were not part of the agreement because they were not arrested, they were outside the territorial jurisdiction of the Philippines,” he said, recalling that there was an attempt to have them extradited.

But the case has been archived according to the July Sandiganbayan ruling and will only be revived upon their arrest or voluntary surrender.

“We still have some properties transferred to the children of Gen. Carlos Garcia. We are still gathering evidence so we can also take care of them legally,” Sandoval said.

Balmeo however said “most of the properties have been surrendered by virtue of the plea bargain agreement.”

Prior to becoming the Ombudsman’s top prosecutor, Sandoval was among the Sandiganbayan justices who approved Garcia’s plea bargain deal, along with current Ombudsman Samuel Martires and former Sandiganbayan associate justice Teresita Diaz-Baldos.