Armed Forces of the Philippines

Carlos Garcia, military general tagged in ‘pabaon’ scandal, freed from prison

Jairo Bolledo

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Carlos Garcia, military general tagged in ‘pabaon’ scandal, freed from prison

FREED. File photo of former Major General Carlos Garcia.

(1st UPDATE) Garcia was detained for amassing P303.27 million of ill-gotten wealth acquired when he was in the military

MANILA, Philippines – Retired major general Carlos Garcia, former comptroller of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, was released from the New Bilibid Prison, the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) announced on Friday, August 11.

BuCor Director General Gregorio Catapang Jr. implemented Garcia’s release after Department of Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla gave his approval. Catapang told Rappler that Garcia was released at around 5:30 pm on Monday, August 7.

The corrections bureau said Garcia “fully served” his sentence upon their computation, factoring in good conduct time allowance provided under Republic Act (RA) No. 10592. The law can slash a person’s years of imprisonment, depending on the case and conduct while in prison.

According to records, Garcia was sentenced by the Sandiganbayan with the following punishments:

  • Four up to eight years in prison for direct bribery under Article 210 of the Revised Penal Code
  • Four to six years for facilitating money laundering under section 4(b) of RA No. 9160 or the anti-money laundering law
  • Eight months to one year, up to two years and four months for perjury
  • Maximum of two years for violation of 96th and 97th articles of war by the General Court Martial of the AFP
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Despite return of cash, properties, General Garcia’s family not yet off the hook

Despite return of cash, properties, General Garcia’s family not yet off the hook

On top of this imprisonment, Garcia was also ordered to pay P406.3 million in fines (thrice the value of the anomalous parting bonus or pabaon that he received), and another P1.5 million as fine for facilitating money laundering. The authorities have yet to disclose if the former general already paid the fines.

According to the Philippine government’s briefer on Garcia’s case, he “siphoned off” funds from bank accounts he set up as a military comptroller. Some of the money under the AFP’s name was transferred to Garcia’s personal account, said the government. 

“He would also reimburse items twice – once each from the UN and the United States – and keep half for himself,” the briefer added.

The BuCor said Garcia was detained in Bilibid on September 16, 2011, but his official detention started in June 2005. He was arrested in 2005 following the filing of a plunder case with the Sandiganbayan. The retired military general served up to 17 years, five months, and eight days in prison, the corrections bureau explained.

Garcia was involved in the decades-old military “pabaon” scandal or hefty retirement bonuses of the military under former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The case was prosecuted by the administration of former president Benigno Aquino III, wherein Garcia was accused of amassing P303.27 million of ill-gotten wealth he acquired when he was in the AFP. (READ: Gen Garcia: How the big fish got away)

What happened before?

The former military general’s case challenged the credibility of the country’s anti-corruption institutions. The controversy went through four presidents – and even four ombudsmen.

In 2010, Arroyo accepted the deal with Garcia through then-ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez and dropped the non-bailable charge of plunder in exchange for a guilty plea for direct bribery and facilitating money laundering. The plea was approved by the Sandiganbayan.

But Arroyo’s successor, Aquino, challenged the deal, which led to the Supreme Court’s issuance of a temporary restraining order to stop the deal’s effectivity in 2013. However, in 2020, the Supreme Court upheld the deal and said the Aquino-time Office of the Solicitor General could not revoke it.

In 2023, the Sandiganbayan’s Fourth Division accepted a request from the Ombudsman to drop the two petitions, seeking the forfeiture of Garcia’s ill-gotten wealth.

Meanwhile, Garcia’s wife Clarita and children Ian Carl, Juan Paulo, and Timothy Mark remained charged with plunder and money laundering. The four were not part of Garcia’s plea bargaining agreement, authorities said. –

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.