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Ex-military comptroller in plunder rap now a lay minister in prison

Former military comptroller Carlos Garcia, who is accused of plundering P303 million in public funds in the Sandiganbayan antigraft court, sat quietly by the altar while Novaliches  Bishop Antonio Tobias, Fr. Anton Pascual and Fr. Bobby de la Cruz celebrated a Mass at the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntilupa City recently.
Later during the Mass organized by Caritas Manila, Garcia, a retired major general who was convicted by a military court and meted out a two-year sentence for violating Articles of  War 96 and 97, gave communion to his fellow inmates.
Garcia, now a lay minister, avoided conviction by a civilian court by entering into a plea bargain with the previous Ombudsman in which he offered to return to the state P135 million. But his court martial conviction in 2006, which was confirmed by President Benigno Aquino III five years later, eventually sent Garcia to the national penitentiary on September 16 this year.
Six weeks later, after undergoing a two-week study, Garcia was formally installed as a Eucharistic minister of the Roman Catholic church.
NBP chaplain Monsignor Bobby Olaguer said Garcia’s preparations included a study on the history of the Church, the liturgy and the catechism using a module from the Liturgical Commission of  the Archdiocese of Manila.
According to Olaguer, Garcia was also given “spiritual training by Jesuit priests.”
“General Garcia passed the screening for lay ministers,”  Olaguer said. “He attends all religious work.  He has shown respect for people, and he is respected by the inmates.”
In  fact, from the day he first wore the required orange uniform for inmates, Garcia became a regular fixture at the NBP chapel.
“He attends Mass daily at 9 a.m. He goes to church in the afternoon. He prays the rosary. His daily schedule revolves around cell, church and hospital,” Olaguer said.
Garcia was qualified to be a lay minister after he was “recommended” by inmates, Olaguer said.
There’s  a limit to what Garcia can do as a lay minister, Olaguer said. “We would have wanted him to be a lector,  but he has refused. He said he was shy,” Olaguer added.
A court-martial found Garcia guilty of  “conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman for failing to disclose or declare all his assets in 2002 and 2003 and for holding the status of an immigrant or permanent resident of the United States,” a violation under Article of War 96.
He was also found guilty of “conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline for making untruthful statements under oath about his true assets in his 2002 and 2003 SALN,” a violation of Article of War 97.
Malacañang has called for a review of the plea bargain Garcia entered into with the previous Ombudsman.
The current Ombudsman, Conchita Carpio-Morales, in September submitted a position paper to the Sandiganbayan seeking a recall of the plea bargain Garcia and the government had entered into.
The Sandiganbayan has yet to respond to Carpio-Morales.
2:28 am | Friday, December 30th, 2011


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