Mr. Buencamino writes political commentary for Action for Economic Reforms. This article was published in Business Mirror, December 7, 2005 edition, p. A11.

Malacañang thinks it can disguise dirt by adding a little “a” to Garci’s name. They think “Hello Garcia” will fool the public.

Cerge Remonde, a Palace horn blower, trumpeted Carlos Garcia’s guilty verdict as “unprecedented in modern Philippine history and proves the seriousness of the Arroyo administration in the fight against corruption.” He added, “It is only under President Arroyo that a general is court-martialed and convicted.” Ignacio Bunye tooted, “The guilty verdict sends a strong signal that any misconduct in our military will not be countenanced.”

Why the blaring horns?  Simple. Malacañang is misstating what that guilty verdict is all about because if the public can be fooled into believing that Gloria Arroyo does not pussyfoot with corruption or misconduct, then it can be fed the lie that she was never involved in anything illegal. The truth is, the military court did not prosecute Garcia for corruption. They did not charge him with plundering P303 million.  That job, prosecuting a capital offense, was passed on to the Sandiganbayan. Why?

Any soldier will tell you there is no way a subordinate can steal hundreds of millions of pesos under his superior’s nose, unless of course, his commander was sleeping or pretending to be asleep. If the allegations against Garcia are true, then a procession of AFP chiefs must have been snoozing or pretending.  So, instead of a capital offense, Garcia was conveniently charged with  “knowingly and willfully” misdeclaring his SALNs (Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth) for 2002 and 2003; perjury relating to those SALNs; and  holding a US green card. Thus, not only did Garcia not have to explain how he amassed his fortune, but a firewall was erected between him and the half a dozen consecutive AFP chiefs he served.  And because there was no death sentence involved, Garcia would not be tempted to break ranks.

If Arroyo were sincere about fighting corruption, she, as commander in chief, would have ordered Garcia charged with offenses punishable by death in addition to investigating all the AFP chiefs involved, especially General Narciso Abaya, who kept the Garcia case under wraps for months. But Arroyo did no such thing and that proved to her military cohorts that she was going to protect them at all costs. They reciprocated her loyalty by remaining loyal to her.  Thus, the chain of command is maintained by an unbroken chain of corruption. Walang iwanan.

Garcia will take his punishment like a man because, after all, no one would have been in trouble were it not for his wife’s loose lips. Garcia’s military lawyer, Antonio Doronila, explained the meaning of two years hard labor, “Hard labor, k’wan lang ’yan, parang additional penalty lang bibigyan ka ng extra fatigue. Yung mga fatigue, gagawa ka ng mga kung ano ano d’yan. Hard labor hindi naman yung katulad ng magtitibag ng bato. That is inhuman.”  (“Hard labor is not about backbreaking work like smashing rocks. It simply means assigning added tasks to make Garcia sweat a little more than he normally would.)

Garcia’s conviction may be “unprecedented in modern Philippine history,” but it does not “prove the seriousness of the Arroyo administration in the fight against corruption.”  As a matter of fact, it only proves Arroyo is seriously corrupt.

Garcia is just a fall guy for the military brass; just like the other fall guy without the “a” at the end of his name: Garci.  Those fall guys should get together and expose the real villain, the one with the “a” at the beginning of her name: Arroyo.