Palace rejects reduction of sentence for Garcia-A A +A
Sunday, September 18, 2011
MANILA -- There is no possibility that the two-year sentence for former military general Carlos Garcia will be reduced, a Malacañang official said Sunday.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said President Benigno Aquino III already confirmed the military court order and it is unlikely for him to diminish the penalty for the suspected plunderer.
"I doubt if the President will be granting it. The President already confirmed the decision of the court martial. So, in all likelihood, there will be no diminution of sentence," he said.
President Aquino last September 9 confirmed the five-year-old military court order that found Garcia guilty of violating the Articles of War 96 or the conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman, and Articles of War 97 or the conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline.
Garcia was arrested from his Quezon City residence and brought to the National Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa where he will be detained.
Garcia was specifically charged for failure to disclose his assets in 2002 and 2003, and for holding a US immigrant status while still in the active military service.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima assured Sunday that Garcia will not get preferential treatment while serving his two-year sentence at the national penitentiary.
She said she ordered Bureau of Corrections Director Gaudencio Pangilinan not to accord Garcia any special accommodations such as granting him living-out status, or allowing him to own a "kubol" (small cottage), and that he would be treated just like any ordinary convicts in the NBP.
Garcia would also not be credited with good conduct time allowance (GCTA) usually given to inmates, de Lima added.
"My instruction is no VIP treatment, yet in full recognition of his rights as a person deprived of liberty," she said in a text message.
The DOJ chief also said that unlike common criminals, Garcia was sent to jail by a general court martial and not a civilian court, for violating military laws.
"Hence, civilian penal laws such as the Revised Penal Code, which allow for GCTA, won't apply," she said.
However, de Lima said she will still confirm if the military courts also recognize GCTA.
"I will have to double check that. Offhand, (his jail sentence) should be (served) in full, unless otherwise directed by the President as commander-in-chief and the authority who confirmed his two-year sentence," she added.
Though the military court handed down its ruling in December 2, 2005, the verdict was not enforced by former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. It was only last September 9 when President Aquino confirmed the sentence.
Garcia retired in November 2004. The court-martial also ordered Garcia dishonorably discharged from the service and his benefits forfeited.
Prior to his arrest last Friday, Garcia walked free after the Sandiganbayan's Second Division rendered its May 9, 2011 resolution that declared valid the plea bargain agreement that he signed with government prosecutors.
The approval of the plea bargain deal paved the way for him to escape liability on his P303-million plunder case after pleading guilty to lesser offenses of direct bribery and money laundering. He was instead ordered to return P135 million to the government.
The plea bargain deal sparked public outrage that resulted in the calls for impeachment of then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez and justices of the anti-graft court.
Gutierrez later on succumbed to pressure and stepped down from her post.
Aside from Garcia, the Armed Forces vowed to investigate other past Defense officials who served under Arroyo's term.
Asked what the Palace expects from the probe to be conducted by the Armed Forces of the Philippine, Lacierda said: "We will let the AFP officials do their investigations. Again, we don’t know what went on during the past administration, so we will leave it to the AFP and the DND (Department of National Defense) hierarchy to conduct the necessary and appropriate investigation on this matter." (Jill Beltran/ECV/Sunnex)