THE PHILIPPINES’ anti-graft court has convicted a retired general of bribery and facilitating money laundering after he amassed at least P303 million from illegal commissions, gifts and other schemes during his military tenure.
In an eight-page decision dated July 5, the Sandiganbayan Second Division ruled ex-military Major General Carlos F. Garcia’s crimes had resulted in an undue advantage at the expense of the Filipino people.
It added that the former military official had made “malicious and felonious” transactions with several banks.
Mr. Garcia was initially charged with plunder and money laundering but had entered a plea bargain deal for the lesser offenses of direct bribery and facilitating money laundering in 2010.
As part of the deal, he would surrender P135.43 million worth of cash and real estate properties that he and his family owned to the government.
In its ruling, the anti-graft court sentenced him to as long as 14 years in prison and fined him more than P400 million for both crimes.
Under the country’s law penalizing plunder, a public official who is found guilty of acquiring ill-gotten wealth of at least P50 million may face life imprisonment and permanent disqualification from holding public office.
In 2013, The Office of the Solicitor General appealed the plea bargain.
The Supreme Court last year lifted a temporary restraining order on the retired major general’s case, as it ruled the chief government lawyer had no personality to meddle in the plunder lawsuit.
It said the Sandiganbayan did not abuse its discretion in approving the plea deal because the government prosecutors had failed to prove Mr. Garcia’s guilt for plunder and money laundering beyond reasonable doubt.
The High Court added that the plea deal was “purely upon the discretion of the prosecutor, while its approval is subject to the judicial discretion of the court trying the facts.“ — John Victor D. Ordoñez