A military court turned down Maj. Gen. Carlos F. Garcia’s request to dismiss the charges filed against him, paving the way for the Judge Advocate General’s Office (JAGO) to recommend to the Armed Forces chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Efren Abu, that Garcia face a court-martial.
Lt. Col. Al Perreras, JAGO’s executive officer, said the recommendation was given to Abu at 6 p.m. Monday.
Perreras said that at the end of the pretrial investigation, the JAGO found strong evidence against Garcia for alleged violations of the Articles of War.
The military court threw out the general’s petition to dismiss the case against him because he failed to prove that the military court did not have jurisdiction over his case.
If Abu approves the JAGO’s recommendation today, a new charge sheet for the general court-martial will be served on Garcia Wednesday.
He will be given five days to prepare for the trial, which would be first for a general in the Armed Forces history.
“If the chief of staff approves it, the trial would begin next week,” Perreras said.
He added that Garcia did not contradict the evidence on his counteraffidavit, which was filed Monday morning with the JAGO.
Garcia will be tried for conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman and conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline.
Abu was not immediately available for comment but said in an early interview with reporters that he would approve a court-martial for Garcia once JAGO makes the recommendation.
The case against Garcia stems from his unexplained wealth and possession of a US green card.
Garcia had sought the dismissal of the charges against him, claiming that these were defective.
Garcia’s counsel, the lawyer Constantino de Jesus, presented before the JAGO a 32-page pleading with a four-page affidavit from the army general.
Garcia scurried away from Camp Aguinaldo with his lawyer in a gray Mitsubishi Lancer after submitting his documents and meeting with military lawyers for about 20 minutes.
The military lawyers, who saluted Garcia, their senior officer, as he entered the room, described him as “looking normal.”
In his counteraffidavit Garcia sought an appeal to Abu as he awaits a petition for declaratory relief and prohibition with the Court of Appeals.
Garcia, a member of the PMA Class Matatag, appealed at a pretrial investigation last week to be given five days to submit his counteraffidavit.
Perreras said the judge advocate is normally allowed 60 days to examine the evidence, but that in this case it needs only “one or two days” to examine the issues raised by Garcia in his counteraffidavit.
He also explained that Garcia’s appeal to the AFP chief of staff is a normal procedure for any officer facing charges before a military court.
The Ombudsman is also investigating Garcia’s son and wife, who were caught by US Customs officials trying to bring in $100,000 in the US on December 3, 2003.
The Ombudsman said Garcia is liable for perjury for misdeclaring his statements of assets and liabilities on Friday.
He allayed fears that Garcia’s case would be forgotten after he retires from the military service next week, saying that his trial will continue. According to the Abadilla doctrine, an officer who faces charges is not allowed to retire.
The House Committees on National Defense and on Banks and Financial Intermediaries appeared determined to continue its investigation into the alleged unexplained wealth of Garcia as it resumed its hearing Monday.
The hearing resumed despite Speaker Jose de Venecia’s call to end the committees’ probe and allow the proper body, such as the military court and the Office of the Ombudsman, to proceed with the charges against Garcia.
Rep. Roilo Golez of Parañaque, chair of the House Committee on National Defense, said the hearing would continue until the panel gets all the information to be able to guide it to draft a law that will deal with the corruption mess in the Armed Forces.
–With Maricel V. Cruz