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By Vittorio Hernandez
Muntinlupa, Metro Manila, Philippines
The Philippine National Penitentiary now has a two-star general in its midst. He is not the new head of the Bureau of Corrections, but a new inmate serving a two-year sentence.
Former Armed Forces of the Philippines comptroller Gen. Carlos Garcia made Philippines history twice on Friday. He is the first two-star general to be sent to the national penitentiary. However, he is serving merely two years although he stole $7 million (PHP 303 million) from military coffers.
Garcia finally landed in jail after Philippine President Benigno Aquino ordered his arrest in compliance with a decision by the AFP General Court Martial for violation of two Articles of War in 2005.
Garcia was sentenced six years ago, but former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo did not confirm the arrest order. Garcia even got to enter into a plea bargain with the Arroyo administration by pleading to a lesser offense of corruption instead of plunder, which carries a life imprisonment term.
Because of the plea bargain in May which the Sandiganbayan approved, Garcia left detention after he posted a $1,386 (PHP 60,000) bail.
Sandiganbayan is a special court created to try cases of graft and corruption involviing public officials.
On the strength of the arrest warrant, Garcia was picked up by the military in his Quezon City residence and transferred in the afternoon to the national penitentiary in Muntinlupa City.
Garcia's prison term is for misrepresentation of his assets in 2002 and 2003 and being a U.S. permanent resident while still in military service. While he was sentenced to two years in prison with hard labor, the penitentiary has a history of providing special treatment to previous moneyed prisoners such as a former congressman, mayor and son of a chief justice.
Garcia still has pending court cases in the Philippines for the stolen money and in the U.S. for attempting to bring out large amounts of money.
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Aquino Orders Imprisonment of Former Philippine Military Comptroller | Global Viewpoint