SC affirms Garcia's detention
MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court has upheld the arrest and detention of former military comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia last year for failing to declare all of his assets.
In a decision dated July 30 but released to the media only on Friday, August 17, the SC dismissed Garcia's petition that sought to nullify President Aquino's confirmation of a court martial ruling ordering his detention for 2 years.
"This court finds that the Office of the President did not commit any grave abuse of discretion in issuing the confirmation of sentence in question," the decision penned by Justice Diosdado Peralta stated.
The high court noted that the President, as commander-in-chief, has the power "to approve or disapprove the entire or any part of the sentence given by the court martial" under Article 48 of the Articles of War.
It added that the president can mitigate or remit a sentence under Article 49 of the Articles of War.
President Aquino confirmed the 2005 court martial verdict, which found Garcia guilty of violating Articles War of 96 (Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and Gentleman) and 97 (Conduct Prejudicial to Good Order and Military Discipline) for failing to truthfully disclose his assets in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN) in 2002 and 2003.
The court martial found him guilty of failing to declare around P12 million and 6 cars in his SALN and sentenced him to 2 years of hard labor. While the ruling was issued in 2005, then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo did not confirm it. Court martial rulings have to be approved by the President in his or her capacity as commander-in-chief.
Aquino, who replaced Arroyo in 2010, confirmed the sentence in 2011 and ordered Garcia to be detained at the New Bilibid Prison.
Garcia told the SC, however, that he has already served the 2-year sentence following his preventive confinement for 6 years and 2 months at Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo, the the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Detention Center and then the Camp Crame Custodial Detention Center.
Preventive confinement refers to detention pending trial.
While the Articles of War is silent on preventive confinement, the high court said the period he served can be deducted from the 2-year sentence if he meets the conditions specified in Article 29 of the Revised Penal Code.
Article 29 states that preventive confinement can be credited in serving a sentence if the prisoner agrees "voluntarily in writing to abide by the same disciplinary rules imposed upon convicted prisoners," except when the prisoners:
- are recidivists, or have been convicted twice or more times of any crime;
- or if they have failed to surrender voluntarily upon being summoned for the execution of their sentence.
The SC noted that Garcia's plea for sentence deduction has been recommended in the Staff Judge Advocate Review.
Garcia is facing other cases of bribery and perjury at the Sandiganbayan for allegedly amassing P303 million while he was military comptroller from 2001 to 2004.
In 2003, Garcia's sons were arrested by US Customs at the San Francisco International Airport for failing to declare they were carrying $100,000. Then Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo had Garcia probed after his wife, Clarita, said their money "came from gifts and gratitude money from several Philippine companies that are awarded military contracts to build roads, bridges and military housing."
Garcia, however, entered into a plea bargain agreement with the Office of the Ombudsman in 2011.
In the deal, Garcia, who was initially charged with plunder, was made to surrender P135 million worth of assets in exchange for the withdrawal of the case against him. Garcia then pleaded guilty to lighter offenses of money laundering and direct bribery.
The Sandiganbayan’s second division approved the deal on May 9 because the prosecution, according to the court, failed to prove its case. - Rappler.com