THE Sandiganbayan has declared retired Major General Carlos Garcia guilty beyond reasonable doubt of direct bribery and facilitating money laundering.
In an eight-page decision promulgated on July 5, 2022 but released to the media on Wednesday, the anti-graft court’s Second Division sentenced Garcia to suffer imprisonment of four to eight years for direct bribery under Article 210 of the Revised Penal Code.
For the crime of facilitating money laundering, Garcia was sentenced to a maximum of six years of imprisonment. He was also ordered to pay a fine of P406.3 million for direct bribery and P1.5 million for facilitating money laundering.
Garcia, who belongs to the Philippine Military Class of 1971, was sentenced to the lesser offense of direct bribery and facilitating money laundering from a charge of plunder after entering into a plea bargaining agreement with the Office of the Ombudsman on December 16, 2010.
Garcia was originally charged with the capital offense of plunder for allegedly acquiring more than P300 million in unexplained wealth when he was the Armed Forces of the Philippines comptroller in 2004.
His wife, Clarita, and children Ian Carl, Juan Paulo and Timothy Clark, who all had fled to the United States, were also included in the case.
The Sandiganbayan has ordered the cases against Garcia’s wife and children be archived, “To be revived upon their arrest or voluntary surrender.”
It can be recalled that the Supreme Court upheld the plea bargaining agreement in a decision promulgated on September 16, 2020 and became final and executory on July 15, 2021.
In the plea bargaining agreement, Garcia withdrew his plea of not guilty to the crime of plunder and offered to enter a plea of guilty to the lesser offense of indirect bribery.
In addition, Garcia entered a plea of not guilty to the charge of money laundering, but then withdrew it for purposes of plea bargaining and offered to enter a plea of guilty to the lesser offense of facilitating money laundering.
He also insisted that his family members, who were charged in the same cases, had no participation in the case filed against them.
As part of the plea bargaining agreement, Garcia offered to return P135,433,387.84 worth of cash, real and personal properties owned by himself and his family members in favor of the government.
In defending the plea bargaining agreement, the Ombudsman noted that such an agreement was allowed when there was no “sufficient evidence to establish the guilt” of the accused.
“At this juncture, it must be emphasized that this Court will not interfere with the substance of or the wisdom behind the plea-bargaining agreement as that falls squarely within the Office of the Ombudsman’s mandate of investigating and prosecuting erring government employees,” the decision read.
“Absent any blatant evidence or irregularity or grave abuse of discretion, this Court will generally confine itself to the legal and technical issues surrounding a plea-bargaining agreement or any similar agreement,” it added.