Military miss

LOOKING ASKANCE - Joseph Gonzales -

In a surprise twist, General Carlos Garcia gets to go to jail after all. Never mind that he was able to wangle a plea-bargain (which, while questionable, is stuck even up to now in some appellate court, and has led to accusations of either incompetence or even more corruption and bribery against the prosecutors who approved the plea bargain).

 Never mind the General was able to post bail for a ridiculous P60,000, even after having allegedly stolen at least the amount of P300 million. (Just think, his bail amount cost infinitely less than the designer outfits his New York-based, Trump Tower-living son was sporting a couple of years ago.)

 As it turns out, there is this thing in the military called a court martial, a process we civilian lawyers know absolutely nothing about, and which has led to a decree that the ex-General should spend the next two years in prison. General Garcia committed something called “Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and a Gentleman” as well as “Conduct Prejudicial to Good Order and Military Discipline,” military offenses which have now come to haunt him despite his retirement in 2004. 

 The thing is, even after the court martial found him guilty, the sentence was never enforced because, we are informed by the mouthpieces, the verdict needed confirmation by the ultimate military authority. And at that time, the goddess in residence was no other than Supreme Girl Puff Power, President Gloria Arroyo. The news reports have it that when la Presidente was shown the verdict, she refused to confirm it. Therefore, no jail time for the Generalissimo.

 Doesn’t that make your blood boil? Yet another instance of the backroom back-rubbing that we heard about during the previous administration has come to light, and all it does is confirm how evil the players in power then were. 

 Fast forward to the next administration. President Aquino, whom I’ve already fawned over in previous columns, and obviously not content with his highest trust ratings ever, confirms the verdict that Arroyo had sat on at her Presidential desk, probably to give herself a couple of centimeters more. And suddenly, the General finds himself quarantined in a maximum security prison, waiting to see if he has any communicable diseases the normal prisoners can’t afford to catch. Meanwhile, his lawyers, obviously not afraid to catch jailbird flu, are allowed access to the quarantine area, determining what the next legal petition to file would best be. One bird down.

 But what about the Big Angry Bird herself? As President, wasn’t Supreme Girl Puff Power the Commander in Chief? And as such, wasn’t she also subject to the chain of command in the military? And if so, wouldn’t she also be subject to the jurisdiction of a military tribunal and therefore, “court martiable”? 

 Wouldn’t it be great if aside from the five or six plunder cases already filed against her, some military flunkey could file a court martial proceeding against her? And then, ultimate joy, President Aquino as the new Commander in Chief could then confirm the guilty verdict. 

 Such bliss. Shazam, all our problems solved. No need to wait for a decade before the plunder cases are heard and litigated by high priced lawyers willing to buy judges and kill witnesses in overburdened courts. Jail sentences readily handed down. Our thirst for justice timely quenched. This window of opportunity while an anti-corruption President is still in power, fully maximized.

 Of course, we could probably not accuse her of Conduct Unbecoming a Gentleman, unless the military judge was willing to look beyond her equipment, and apply the available past precedents to her regardless of their having been formulated with macho men in mind. But, given the factual charges against her in the plunder cases, any of those could form the basis for a conviction based on her conducting herself in a manner unbecoming a military officer cum Supreme Girl Puff Power.

Court martial proceedings against Arroyo might actually work. Imagine, her being arraigned before officers from the very institution she used to snatch ballot boxes and obtain election victory. Military men never looked so appealing.











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