Ex-Philippine general rearrested for hiding assets

AP News
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Posted: Sep 16, 2011 3:44 AM
Ex-Philippine general rearrested for hiding assets

A retired Philippine military budget chief whose plunder charges were dismissed by a civilian court was rearrested by the military Friday to serve a prior two-year prison sentence for hiding assets and holding a U.S. green card while in service.

Retired Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia became a poster boy for military corruption but escaped conviction on charges of stealing 303 million pesos ($7 million) when he struck a plea bargain with civilian prosecutors in May.

Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told a news conference that military police picked up Garcia from his house in the capital and brought him to military detention on orders of President Benigno Aquino III, who has made the fight against corruption a cornerstone of his administration.

Garcia was checked by doctors then escorted by military police to the suburban national penitentiary where he will serve his jail term, said military spokesman Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos.

Corruption is an especially explosive issue in the ill-equipped and poorly paid 126,000-strong military and has sparked several insurrections by disgruntled troops in the last two decades.

Allegations of Garcia's illicit assets emerged in 2003 when U.S. Customs informed the Philippines that his sons had been caught trying to enter the United States with $100,000 in undeclared funds, some of it stashed in their luggage.

Garcia was sentenced by the military in 2006 for failing to disclose all his assets, but Aquino's predecessor, then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, failed to approve his imprisonment, Gazmin said.

In the ensuing civilian case, Garcia pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and returned assets worth 135 million pesos ($3.1 million) under the deal that secured his freedom but was met with public criticism.

A congressional hearing was held during which Garcia's former colleague testified that at least three retired chiefs of staff also pocketed huge amounts that were earmarked for troop salaries, intelligence and a military hospital. One of those implicated, Gen. Angelo Reyes, denied the allegation then committed suicide.

According to U.S. Customs, Garcia had cash and property worth at least $1.42 million in the United States, including two condominium units in New York and a house in Ohio.

The military tribunal also found him guilty of holding U.S. immigrant status while serving in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Garcia's two sons, Juan Paulo Garcia and Ian Carl Garcia, pleaded guilty to bulk cash smuggling charges and a U.S. court sentenced them in November to time served and two years probation.

The Philippines is seeking their extradition together with their mother, Clarita Garcia, and another son.

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Associated Press writer Oliver Teves contributed to this report.