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News and Opinion Regarding the General Garcia Plea Bargaining Case (a collection of most of the articles as the case broke into the news)



CORONEL EXPLODES BOMBSHELL IN SENATE: A retired lieutenant colonel on Thursday made a surprise appearance at the Senate and disclosed how he and his ex-bosses allegedly amassed wealth, with a large portion of the loot taken from soldiers' salaries. Seated on a wheelchair following a stroke, George Rabusa dropped a bombshell: that Angelo Reyes, a former Armed Forces chief of staff, received a send-off gift ("pabaon") of "not less than" P50 million when he retired in 2001.

"PABAON": A CLOSER LOOK >>> The military said it welcomes a probe into the so-called pabaon (send-off) system wherein outgoing Armed Forces chiefs of staff are given millions of pesos in cash when they retire. In an interview, Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Jose Mabanta said the pabaon system was discontinued after the military leadership abolished the office of the AFP deputy chief of staff for comptrollership (J6) in 2004. "A lot of things has happened to the comptroller. From a very big office, it was divided into smaller offices. One of the intentions of this is to show there is check and balance, not one office will decide on the financial issues," said Mabanta. "If this will result to investigation, additional or further investigation, the Armed Forces will give in and provide whatever is requested from us by competent authorities," he added. The abolition of the Office of the Military Comptroller (J6) came after former military comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia was discovered to have amassed over P300 million during his time as head of the office.

SURPRISE TURN: SECRET "SLUSH FUND" BARED >>> THE Senate investigation into the controversial plea-bargaining agreement between former Armed Forces comptroller Major Gen. Carlos F. Garcia took a surprise turn yesterday after a former budget officer at J6 (AFP comptrollership) surfaced and bared a secret "slush fund" used to grease the palms of senior military officers, members of the media and some Congress officials. The issue of the plea-bargaining agreement was shunted to the sidelines after Senate Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada introduced retired Col. George Rabusa of the Philippine Army. Rabusa was AFP budget officer under Garcia and Garcia's predecessor at J6, Lt. General Jacinto Ligot. Rabusa said there exists in the AFP the so-called "Provision for Command Directive Activities" (PCDA), disbursed solely at the discretion of the AFP chief of staff, who, at the time, was former energy secretary Angelo Reyes.

TWO OFFICERS WERE INVESTIGATED FOR UNEXPLAINED WEALTH: Lt. Col. George Rabusa and Lt. Gen. Jacinto Ligot, both linked to then military comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia, were investigated for unexplained wealth while serving in the military. Rabusa served as budget chief of the Office of the Armed Forces Deputy Chief of Staff for Comptrollershipor J6from November 1999 until 2002, under Garcia. In 2002, a graft complaint was filed against Rabusa in the AFP Ombudsman in connection with his unexplained wealth amounting to P62 million. His gross monthly income then was only P26,639.88. Rabusa tried to explain the dramatic increase in his net worth by saying that he had received a P4.1-million inheritance and "financial aid" from his parents-in-law

POSSIBLE NEW WITNESS: Retired lieutenant colonel George Rabusa may be one of the government's witness in its plunder case against former military comptroller Carlos Garcia after his testimony on the corruption within the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), a senator said...Senator Teofisto Guingona III, chairman of the Senate blue ribbon committee, said Rabusa's admission about how he and his ex-bosses allegedly amassed wealth, which were partly sourced from salaries of soldiers, has bolstered the plunder case against Garcia.

CONGRESS TO STUDY NEW PARAMETERS FOR PLEA BARGAINS: Speaker Feliciano Belmonte said on Thursday that Congress would set the parameters for government prosecutors in entering into a plea bargain to avoid putting the state at a disadvantage as what happened in the agreement between ex-military comptroller Carlos Garcia and the special prosecutors handling the plunder case. "The idea that we can overturn their action is not (correct). Only they can overturn their action. The congressmen cannot do that," Belmonte said...

SENATORS PLEA BARGAIN OR BARGAIN SALE?: Senators Thursday demanded to know from state prosecutors why they did not pursue the plunder case against ex-military comptroller Carlos Garcia despite his own wife's admissions that they had received extravagant gifts and money from military contractors and suppliers. At the start of the inquiry by the Senate blue ribbon committee into the controversial plea bargain with Garcia, Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano pressed the prosecutors to explain why they did not attempt to reach out to Clarita Garcia. Waving copies of statements given by Clarita to US authorities, committee chair Sen. Teofisto Guingona III said he wondered if the Filipino people were not the victims of the deal.

OMBUDSMAN: SUREME COPURT HAS FINAL SAY >>> Only the Supreme Court can look into the question of whether or not the Office of the Ombudsman abused its power when it entered into a plea bargain with former military comptroller Carlos Garcia, Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez said.

GOVERNMENT EYES NEW PROBE: Special Prosecutor Wendell Barreras-Sulit yesterday said she would start a new investigation on the plunder case against former military comptroller Carlos Garcia. Sulit made the assurance before the Senate Blue Ribbon committee investigating the plea bargaining agreement between Garcia and the special prosecutors. Sulit noted the detailed claims of Lt. Col. George Rabusa, a former military budget officer who testified yesterday on how government funds are converted into personal funds of top military officials. "In the light of this new investigation, we will do at the Ombudsman what we have to do we will start a new investigation and I think my companions agree with me on this," Sulit said.

LAWMAKER WANTS PROSECUTORS REPLACED: A party-list lawmaker urged the Office of the Solicitor General to push for the replacement of government prosecutors handling the P303 million plunder case against retired military comptroller Major Gen. Carlos F. Garcia and his family. Citizens' Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC) party-list Rep. Sherwin Tugna said the statements of Ombudsman prosecutors led by Special Prosecutor Wendel Barreras-Sulit that government evidence is insufficient to convict the Garcias have eroded their credibility to continue representing the State in the case. "It would be better if we have the panel of prosecutors changed considering that as early as this stage, their predisposition about the case has been very obvious," the lawmaker said.

EX-COA CHIEF ON AUDIT TEAM: Former government auditor Heidi Mendoza has expressed dismay over the Commission on Audit's (COA) lack of support in her investigation into anomalous transactions in the military. ABS-CBN News sought out former COA Chairman Guillermo Carague for his reaction to the issues raised by Mendoza. Carague said he assigned 11 auditors to investigate the case of former military comptroller Carlos Garcia. Mendoza led the audit team.

"EX-DEFENSE CHIEF GOT P5m AS RETIREMENT GIFT": A former budget officer of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) testified at a Senate hearing Thursday that former defense secretary Angelo Reyes received around P50 million as a retirement gift when he left as military chief of staff. Lieutenant Colonel George Rabusa said the retirement gift had to be converted to dollars because "it was bulky." Rabusa further said the retirement gift was a "really bigger amount", but past retiring chiefs of staff got retirement money as well. He added the AFP chief of staff gets around P5 million a month under the discretionary funds.

FORMER MILITARY CHIEF DENIES RECEIVING "SEND OFF" MONEY: Former Armed Forces Chief of Staff Angelo Reyes immediately denied the allegation that he had received some P50 million when he retired in 2001. "I don't recall what [Lieutenant Colonel George Rabusa] was saying that he went to me," Reyes told the Senate blue ribbon committee Thursday at the inquiry into the plea bargaining agreement between the government and General Carlos Garcia, a former military comptroller, who has been accused of plunder. Rabusa was the former budget officer of Reyes when he was military chief while Garcia was comptroller when Reyes was head of defense.


OMBUDSMAN STANDS BY PLEA BARGAIN DEAL: Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez on Thursday stood by the controversial plea bargain agreement entered into by her prosecutors and former Armed Forces comptroller Carlos Garcia. "The plea bargain agreement was what the prosecutors in my office had recommended, and the plea bargain agreement was in the best interest of the government," Gutierrez told the Senate blue ribbon committee in a letter on Thursday. She likewise noted that the Office of the Ombudsman is "an independent constitutional body designed to be protected, in the discharge of its mandate to investigate and prosecute official wrongdoing, from outside pressure, be it judicial, executive or legislative." "Our Supreme Court has time and again ruled that unless the Ombudsman had gravely abused its discretion, a matter for said court to determine, its (Ombudsman) decision on how a case is prosecuted should be respected," she said.

GARCIA BREAKS SILENCE BEFORE HOUSE COMMITTEE: Garcia told the committee the idea of a plea bargain agreement was first floated to him in 2008 by someone he did not name. At that time, thinking he had a strong defense, he didn't pursue it. However, after his children and wife were jailed, and more cases were filed against him in 2009, he re-started the plea bargain agreement negotiations with the Arroyo government. Garcia said the withdrawal of information against his family was part of the plea bargain agreement in exchange for pleading guilty to direct bribery.

FORMER PROSECUTOR SAYS TOLD TO "DISENGAGE": A former special prosecutor revealed at a House justice committee hearing that Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez asked him to "disengage" from the corruption case against former military comptroller Carlos Garcia. During the initial part of the committee hearing on Tuesday, former Special Prosecutor Dennis Villa-Ignacio said the Ombudsman ordered all prosecutors working on the case to report to her directly. He also said the Ombudsman removes honest and competent prosecutors...Gutierrez and her deputies outrightly snubbed the justice committee's investigation of the Garcia plea bargain agreement...Gutierrez and her deputy and special prosecutors sent a letter with 3 reasons why she declined participation. The reasons are: O - the Garcia case remains pending in the Sandiganbayans 2nd Division; O- the Ombudsman is an independent and constitutional office; O- the hearing, based on media reports, is not a probe in aid of legislation.

OSP TO OSG: BACK OFF! The Office of the Special Prosecutor Tuesday opposed the attempt of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to intervene in the plunder case against ex-military comptroller Carlos Garcia, and defended the plea bargain it had forged with the retired major general. The OSG had asked the Sandiganbayan to allow it to intervene in the case and to nullify the plea bargain. But in a comment and opposition submitted to the anti-graft court, state prosecutors denied that there was strong evidence to nail Garcia for plunder.

MILITARY ALLOWS OFFICERS TO TESTIFY: Military officers who have knowledge of the alleged corrupt practices of former military comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia are free to testify in courts, the Armed Forces leadership said over the weekend. AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Jose Mabanta made the pronouncement after a Malacañang official urged officers to testify on the plunder case of Garcia, who reportedly amassed over P300 million while in active service. "If anyone will come forward, we will gladly say our piece. Transparency is very important...We welcome the statement (of Malacanang) and with that in mind, officers who are wiling to shed light can make themselves available in relation to that statement of Malacanang that any member of the Armed Forces can shed light," said Mabanta. Former Constabulary chief Ramon Montano earlier said junior officers are willing to testify against the activities of Garcia and his former superiors if a no-nonsense investigation is conducted.

HOUSE COMMITTEE SETS HEARNG: The House Committee on Justice is conducting a hearing Tuesday to determine whether or not there is irregularity on the plea bargaining agreement entered into between former Major Gen. Carlos Garcia and the government represented by the Office of the Special Prosecutor over his plunder case..."If indeed, there is irregularity, Congress, using its oversight function, may take action and we may recommend possible penalties and sanctions"

PROSECUTORS: CASE BASED ON WIFE'S ADMISSIONS >>> Prosecutors under the Ombudsman have filed the plunder case against former military comptroller Carlos Garcia on the "mere basis" of statements made by his wife Clarita Depakakibo-Garcia. This was affirmed by assistant special prosecutor Joseph Capistrano during the oral argument conducted on Friday by the Sandiganbayan on the Solicitor General's supplemental motion to intervene in the Garcia plea bargain agreement with the anti-graft agency. Capistrano was replying to Second Division Associate Justice Teresita Diaz-Baldos who asked the Ombudsman for its basis for filing the criminal information against Garcia In her statements, both handwritten and typewritten given to US authorities last April 6, 2004, Clarita admitted that she and her husband received huge sums of money as commissions from contractors and suppliers. Based on Clarita's statements, the Office of the Ombudsman then headed by Simeon Marcelo, filed a plunder case against Garcia, his wife and three sons, for allegedly conspiring to amass P303 million in ill-gotten wealth. Clarita's statements did not have probative value because they were not sworn to and testified in court, Capistrano said.

PCGG: BARGAIN DEAL DEFECTIVE >>> The Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) echoed criticism that the plea bargaining agreement between accused plunderer retired Maj. Gen. Carlos F. Garcia and Ombudsman prosecutors suffers from procedural defects. PCGG Chairman Juan Andres Bautista, dean of the Far Eastern University-College of Law, said the plea deal failed to meet two important pre-requisites set under Rule 116, Section 2 of the Rules of Court, governing plea bargain agreements: "Consent of the offended party" and the lesser offense pleaded guilty to by the accused must be "necessarily included in the offense charged." He noted that while Garcia was originally charged with plunder a capital crime punished under Republic Act (RA) 7080 he subsequently pleaded guilty to direct bribery which is penalized under Article 210 of the Revised Penal Code and facilitating money laundering covered under RA 9160. "Query as to whether the crime of direct bribery and money laundering are 'necessarily included' in the offense of plunder? Note that both crimes are punished by different laws," Bautista pointed out in a newspaper column. The PCGG chief also noted the requirement of obtaining the consent of the offended party before the trial court allows the downgrading of the original offense charged.

ANOTHER SENATOR HITS PLEA DEAL: Opposition Sen. Joker Arroyo urged the Aquino administration to make clear its policy against corruption, saying that up until now he does not understand why former Major Gen. Carlos Garcia and his alleged cohorts were allowed to go "scot-free." Arroyo said the government seems to be giving the impression that it is only interested in getting money that is why it settled for a plea bargaining agreement. He said the administration should go after the whole amount that Garcia and his group allegedly amassed instead of settlling for P130 million the Ombudsman is asking the former military officer to account for. Garcia, who is accused of stealing over P300 million from the governments coffer during the course of his career, should be sent to jail for plunder, the senator said.

GARCIA DIDN'T ADMIT HE WAS CONTROLLER: After denying that he had plundered more than P300 million in taxpayers' money, former military general Carlos Garcia now claims to have never admitted being a comptroller, a position that would have given him vast control over disbursement of funds. "There was no admission that he held the position of comptroller. There were many major generals in the military but not all of them were comptroller," Garcia's lawyer Constantino de Jesus told the Sandiganbayan Second Division. De Jesus said that there was only a reference to Garcia's rank as major general and not as comptroller. But the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) laughed off De Jesus' claim, saying it won't weaken the plunder case against the retired military official. Assistant Solicitor General Amparo Cabotaje-Tang said they would continue to oppose the plea bargaining agreement between the accused and the Office of the Special Prosecutor. "If he (Garcia) was not allowed to plead guilty to lesser offense of direct bribery, he would not be out on bail. He continues to be charged with plunder," Cabotaje-Tang told the anti-graft court. Also under the plea bargain deal, Garcia promised to return P130 million to the government. Cabotaje-Tang stressed that any public official who amassed P50 million or more in ill-gotten wealth should be charged with plunder. The OSG earlier filed a petition for intervention following the announcement of a plea bargaining agreement between Garcia and the Office of the Special Prosecutor under the Office of the Ombudsman. The OSG through Solicitor General Jose Anselmo Cadiz also recently filed a supplemental motion before the anti-graft court for the re-arrest and re-arraignment of Garcia, as well as for the cancellation of his bail. The OSG maintained that Garcia's arraignment for direct bribery was void from the very beginning. Cadiz also stressed the agreement was made in violation of the provisions of criminal procedure under the Rules of Court.

SENATE TO GRILL PROSECUTORS: The Senate blue ribbon committee is set to grill special prosecutors involved in the plea bargain that led to the release on bail of ex-military comptroller Carlos Garcia, who allegedly stole P303 million from government coffers. Sen. Teofisto Guingona II, committee chair, on Friday said the hearing set for Thursday next week would look into allegations that the prosecutors had been bribed into accepting the plea bargain. Citing information from Solicitor General Joel Cadiz, the senator reminded the prosecutors that they were under the Office of the President, not the Ombudsman, and as such, they could lose their jobs as a result of the deal. We will determine if there was bribery, Guingona told the Inquirer. "I was told they are employed under the Office of the President. This means they can be fired." Besides the prosecutors, Guingona said the committee summoning former Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes, ex-comptroller Jacinto Ligot, and Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.

SENATOR GUINGONA: SUPERIORS MUST HAVE HAD KNOWLEDGE >>> Senate blue ribbon committee chairman Sen. Teofisto Guingona III... said the inquiry aims to look into the laws of plea bargaining and whether Garcia was in cahoots with anyone when he allegedly amassed P303.27 million in ill-gotten wealth while he was still in active service. "I think such a large amount of money could not have been stolen without the knowledge of his superiors," said Guingona. Guingona made the announcement a day after Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada and Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago accused former Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes of having a hand in Garcia's alleged illegal activities. Reyes denied the accusation and challenged Estrada and Santiago to present evidence of his alleged involvement. Guingona said they have invited Garcia, Reyes, and representatives of the Office of the Ombudsman and special prosecutors to attend the hearing. He said they will be subpoenaed if ever they refuse to participate. "They have to explain why this happened," he said.

REYES: "NOT ME" >>> Former Defense Secretary and Armed Forces Chief of Staff Angelo Reyes Tuesday broke his silence to deny that he was the "powerful person" behind retired Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia, who is charged with plunder. Reyes said he was putting an end to "widespread speculation" that it was he whom Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV had referred to as the man Garcia was "fronting" for when the then AFP comptroller purportedly amassed P303 million.

OFFICE OF SOLICITOR GENERAL: PLEA "NULL, VOID" >>> The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) yesterday accused the Sandiganbayan of illegally allowing former military comptroller Carlos Garcia to plead guilty to lesser offenses under a plea bargaining agreement in violation of the Rules of Court. Solicitor General Jose Anselmo Cadiz filed a supplemental motion before the anti-graft court calling for the re-arrest of Garcia, another arraignment and cancellation of the bail granted to the former general.

SOLON WANTS AF CHIEF PROBED: The ball is now in the hands of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez to pursue a possible case against former Armed Forces of the Philippines chief and defense secretary Angelo Reyes to see his links to the corruption within the military, Parañaque Representative Roilo Golez said

"US HAPPY WITH HANDLING OF CASE": Special Prosecutor Wendell Barreras-Sulit said the US Department of Justice had congratulated her prosecutors for a job well done. Barreras-Sulit said the actual value of the real properties seized from Garcia may be more than P303 million. The amount is a modest valuation based on current market value, she added.

US NOT CONSULTED: The United States has clarified that it has no role in the plea bargain agreement offered by former Armed Forces comptroller Carlos Garcia to plead guilty to the lesser offenses of direct bribery and money laundering.

SOLON: GARCIA "FALL GUY" FOR OTHERS >>> In lining his pockets, then military comptroller Carlos Garcia could not have acted alone and was apparently tolerated by his superiors in the Armed Forces, lawmakers said...Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez did not name names in an interview with Radyo Inquirer, but he was apparently alluding to the five AFP chiefs of staff, all under Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes, and under whom Garcia worked from 2001 to 2003.

DE LIMA: SANCTION OMBUDSMAN EXECS OVER DEAL: The lower officers of the Office of the Ombudsman should be subjected to disciplinary action for entering into the questionable plea-bargain agreement with former AFP comptroller Gen. Carlos Garcia, Justice Secretary Leila De Lima said. "The Ombudsman can only be removed by impeachment. But the Office of the President has disciplinary powers over lower officers of the Office of the Ombudsman," De Lima said.

DE LIMA: LIFESTYLE CHECK FOR THOS WHO APPROVED DEAL >>> Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said that the Palace is considering of subjecting to lifestyle checks the members of the prosecution panel who approved the plea-bargain deal of former military comptroller retired General Carlos Garcia. De Lima also said that the Sandiganbayan had to explain the issue on the plea bargaining because there is "a lot of questions that need to be answered."

HOUSE PROBE OF PLEA DEALS SOUGHT: Two Mindanao lawmakers urged the House of Representatives yesterday to look into the plea bargaining agreement between the government and former military comptroller Carlos Garcia. Representatives Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro City and his brother Maximo of Abante Mindanao said a legislative inquiry is needed to protect the government's interest in future plea bargaining agreements. Remedial legislation might be necessary to clarify when a plea bargain could be allowed, they added.

P128M "BEYOND REACH": An estimated P128 million that was withdrawn by ex-military comptroller Carlos Garcia's family from the bank accounts cited in their plunder case is now "beyond reach," Special Prosecutor Wendell Sulit said...Sulit told reporters that the money was withdrawn before the bank accounts were frozen. was Garcia's wife Clarita and their children who had withdrawn the money, and that there was no admission from Garcia that it was given to him. Asked why the return of the money was not made a condition in the plea bargain with Garcia, Sulit said it was feared that the retired major general would play hardball and that the government might end up losing the case.

SANDIGA LIFTS GAG ORDER: Deficiencies and other weaknesses in the plunder complaint filed in 2005 by then Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo against former military comptroller Carlos Garcia forced the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) to enter into a plea bargaining agreement with the accused. "Otherwise, Garcia goes scot-free and the government gets nothing," according to Deputy Special Prosecutor Jesus Micael yesterday. Micael made the statement to The STAR after the Sandiganbayan lifted its Dec. 22 gag order that barred all parties to the case from granting interviews to the media. "We have to swallow the bitter pill because of dearth of testimonial evidence to pin down Garcia," Micael said.

EVIDENCE WEAK?: The fear of losing the plunder case filed against retired Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia prompted government anti-graft prosecutors to enter into a "plea bargaining" agreement against the former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) comptroller accused of pocketing P303 million in state funds. Assistant Special Prosecutor Joseph Capistrano said that the evidence they had compiled and presented before the Sandiganbayan against Garcia may not secure for the Office of the Ombudsman his conviction for both plunder and violation of Article 4A of the anti-money laundering law. Capistrano expressed the sentiments of the Office of the Special Prosecutor about the case when called for a hearing by the Sandiganbayan in connection with the move of the Office of the Solicitor General to intervene in the case and seek rejection of the plea bargaining agreement between the Ombudsman and Garcia. "We were not able to find any supplier or contractor to substantiate allegations of covert acts by the accused (of amassing ill-gotten wealth)", Capistrano declared in open court.

PRELATE: PLEA DEAL SETS BAD PRECEDENT >>> A Catholic prelate is opposing the plea bargain agreement and wants a former military official accused of plunder punished if proven guilty to serve as a lesson to other corrupt officials. Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo feels the deal between state prosecutors and former Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia, if pursued, would "weaken more" the country's justice system. The former president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) also expressed fear that the agreement could be abused for the "convenience" of corrupt officials. "It will be not be a good example and that way of doing it might be sought and be applied for similar and other cases of corruption," Lagdameo said.

SANDIGANBAYAN: GARCIA PLEA DEAL NOT YET APPROVED >>> The Sandiganbayan has given former military comptroller Major General Carlos Garcia enough time to answer the allegations filed by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) in its bid to have his plea bargain junked. Sandiganbayan spokesperson Renato Bocar said the court deferred ruling on the plunder and money laundering cases anew, preferring instead to allow Garcia to reply within 15 days the government lawyer's motion to intervene. During the hearing on Monday morning, the anti-graft court's second division lambasted the OSG for insisting that the plea bargain had already been approved as early as May 2010, or 2 months before President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo stepped down from office.

US COURT FORFEITS GARCIA SONS' $100,000: A United States court forfeited the $100,000 (about P4.4 million) seized seven years ago from the two sons of former military comptroller Gen. Carlos Garcia, who is facing plunder and money laundering and other charges in the Philippines. Judge Marilyn Hall Patel of the US Northern District Court of California issued the final forfeiture order in favor of the US government on January 7, after nobody - not even the Philippine governmentstepped forward to claim the amount. The forfeited money is believed to be part of the P303-million ill-gotten wealth Garcia and his family allegedly earned while he was still in active military service.

SOLICITOR GENERAL CAN GO TO SUPREME COURT: The Office of the Solicitor General may have no choice but to elevate to the Supreme Court the plea bargaining agreement between former military comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia and government prosecutors if the SolGen wants to question the deal, a former justice of the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court said...


"HANGING JUDGE" WITH MERCY: Retired Justice Manuel Pamaran says it's not the fault of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez that the case build up of plunder against former Army comptroller Gen. Carlos Garcia was "very weak and incomplete." Pamaran, the original "Hanging Judge" who has sent numerous criminals to the gallows, pointed out that it was the team of Gutierrez's predecessor who spearheaded the filing of the incomplete and deficient information against Garcia without the allegations having been validated thereof. The retired justice also noted that the case was referred to the Office of the Ombudsman in Sept. 2004, but Gutierrez only assumed office on Dec. 5, 2005. Pamaran also criticized the information originally filed by the 2004 team as "so worded in generalities," adding that the Resolutions which paved the way for the filing of the plunder charges against Garcia "did not provide any discussion on the specific acts of the accused that would qualify as unjustly enriching himself at the expense and to the damage of the Filipino people."

GARRULOUS INCOMPETENCE: ...Now that the Sandiganbayan and the Ombudsman allowed Garcia to enter a plea bargaining for a lesser offense of direct bribery, which an amount of P135.4 million of the invalidated questionable assets comprising of real estate properties, vehicles, bank accounts both in peso and dollar denominations were returned, in exchange for the exclusion of the wife and children in the charge sheet, hecklers led by Marcelo are now alleging irregularity to hide the real score about their incompetence. But it is the filing, not the outcome of the case, that is important, and the filing was done during the time of Marcelo. The wife's affidavits, bank accounts, checks, and real properties, as one lawyer would put it, " is not itself an indication the government has a strong evidence, viz. case against Garcia. At most they only stand as unexplained wealth that likewise the State must prove beyond reasonable doubt. Somebody has to testify that those pieces of evidence either facilitated or are the proceeds in the commission of the crime of plunder. It is not even an argument for Solicitor General Jose Cadiz and much more for Malacañang to say they came to know of it only after it was reported on the papers. If ignorance of the law is not an excuse, it is doubly inexcusable if it is a case of negligence and incompetence." -- Rod P. Kapulan in Manila Standard

MIRIAM STEPS IN: ...We are pleased to note that Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago has stepped into the fray and is now saying that Garcia indeed could not have acted alone, that he had the stamp of approval from his superiors in the military establishment. Senator Santiago has even gone further to name a certain former Armed Forces of the Philippines chief as being in cahoots with Garcia, an allegation an ex-AFP chief has denied. In asking the government to cast a wider net to catch Garcia's co-conspirators in what must be considered the country's mother of all plunder cases...a Senate probe should also summon the state prosecutors to explain their decision to strike a plea bargain with the accused.

WEAK CASE? Now that it can defend itself in media against the innuendos that it took a dive in agreeing to the plea bargain, the Office of the Ombudsman has gone on an offensive. The principal message is that the case filed by then Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo and Special Prosecutor Dennis Villa-Ignacio was weak and there was a big risk that Garcia would walk free if there was no plea bargain...When we asked Villa-Ignacio in our radio program Karambola sa dwIZ about his reaction to what the Office of the Ombudsman is saying (that the case is weak and there is a strong possibility that Garcia would be acquitted), he said that if this is so then it is surprising that Garcia would even consider entering plea bargaining agreement. If the case was truly weak, as contended by Capistrano, then Garcia would have pushed through with the filing of a demurrer, Villa-Ignacio said. -- Alvin Capino in Manila Standard

GENERAL GARCIA TOO AKED FOR THE RETURN OF $100,000: Apparently the Jan. 9, 2004, excuse letters of brothers Ian Carl and Juan Paolo Garcia didn't work. US feds refused to return the $100,000 smuggled cash confiscated from them on Dec. 19, 2003, at San Francisco airport. The claim of Ian Carl, then 25, didnt wash that the money was for his medical treatment, youngest brother Timothy Mark's tuition and condo down payment, and the family's holiday expenses in New York...Futile too was the defense of Juan Paolo, 23, that he feared being queried by Customs officers, just like they did the previous Oct. about his flying first class when he was only a student. So on Jan. 12, 2004, it was the turn of their father, Maj. Gen. Carlos F. Garcia, to write Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

SO WHAT'S NEW: The government has two plunder cases: One against a former AFP general but now downgraded to bribery. So far nothing is yet final without the say-so of the judges of Sandiganbayan roughly translated into Pilipino as "protector of the people."... So far there's no contractor/supplier who can willingly claim having lost millions to greed. But veteran observers can tell us that plunder is not committed in full innocence by the culprits/villains in regular graft cases. Who would want to publicly admit he/she/they paid millions to one or more persons or generals in the AFP?...The plunder cases about mansions and luxury cars are not products of imagination and wild guesses. It's a case of res ipsa loquitur (the thing speaks for itself). Cannot the return of P135 M by Garcia be considered in the same category or level?

MIDNIGHT QUITTER: ...The special prosecutor, whose office is under the Office of the Ombudsman, initially gave the impression that the plea bargain was the best arrangement for a hardly ideal situation since, arguing that the case against Garcia was weak, it would allow government to shore up its losses while recovering half of the amount Garcia had plundered. But that is hardly the case since she herself now admits that the government failed to stop the Garcias from withdrawing some P128 million from their bank accounts. She explained that the money was withdrawn before they could be ordered frozen. The revelation is very damning since it shows that government did not only fail to freeze fully Garcia's assets, it also failed to demand the return of the withdrawn accounts in the plea bargain...---Philippine Daily Inquirer Editorial

HERE, THERE & EVERYWHERE: "You have someone who is not a tycoon, the CEO of a multinational, or the inheritor of a fortune, who is perfectly willing to return P135 million to government so he can be sprung from jail and you have no evidence against him for plunder and money laundering? You have a general who has shown no talent for business, other than the shady variety, who is perfectly capable of returning P135 million to government so he can breathe the same air we do, and you cannot prove he is rotten to the core beyond a shadow of doubt?" ---Conrado de Quiros in the Philippine Daily Inquirer

GETTING GARCIA: ...If the government really wants to pursue the Garcia case, it should set aside for a moment its dislike for the Supreme Court and ask the tribunal to punish both the Sandiganbayan and the Ombudsman for abusing their discretion...the Supreme Court, if it is asked, can act on a suit which would hold these court officials for grossly abusing their discretion, on the basis of the resolution granting bail and downgrading the original plunder charges. And if that doesn't light a fire under both the anti-graft court and the Ombudsman, then we will know if Garcia's influence truly extends beyond the Sandiganbayan division that is supposed to be in the business of throwing him behind bars and keeping him there for a long, long time.

GARCIA SURRENDERED ASSETS LONG SEIZED: How can you give away something you no longer possess? This question arises about the P135-million loot that Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia surrendered under his recent thorny plea bargain. For it turns out that the real estate, bank deposits and, vehicles comprising the amount already were in Sandiganbayan hands since six years back...the basic question is how the plea bargain in the plunder rap could affect the forfeiture case. This is because the assets that Garcia ceded to the government, to escape life sentencing for plunder, are mostly also in the forfeiture. Non-bailable plunder is a capital offense that needs proving beyond reasonable doubt. Forfeiture depends only on evidence of possession of assets beyond the regular income of a government official.

Newsbreak Stories

Cover-up in the military (November, 2004)

A Comptroller's Hidden Wealth (December, 2004)

Why Garcia and Ligot happened (February, 2011)


Fashion's Night In

Marc by Marc Jacobs publicist Tim Garcia, under house arrest because of a criminal investigation, spent the night in a Gucci jacket and YSL boots.

Timothy Mark Depakakibo Garcia, a 25-year-old publicist for Marc by Marc Jacobs, has a court-ordered Fashion Week curfew.

Perched on a sleek white Armani Casa chair in his apartment in the modern, gilded Trump Plaza at 502 Park Avenue, Garcia is decked in head-to-toe designer: a supple caramel leather Alessandro dell’Acqua jacket, Alexander McQueen jeans, a thin white LnA tee shirt and YSL boots. His wrists are adorned with a big Cartier gold and silver Tank watch, a Cartier Love bracelet, a white enamel Hermes bangle and a $1000 dollar large gold plated spiked Hermes cuff called the Collier de Chien.

Then Garcia daintily rolls up his jeans to reveal one accessory he’d rather not be wearing: an electronic monitoring house arrest ankle bracelet, code number “HGM94472.” The thick plastic black box, the size of a pack of cigarettes, is snug up against his tiny ankle. Garcia’s movements are recorded by Homeguard 200, a big black machine connected to his angular, futuristic Bang and Olufsen phone....On March 6, 2009, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) barged into Garcia’s apartment—purchased with his mother Clarita D. Garcia, in 2004 for $765,000—and handcuffed him...Garcia was arrested as part of a criminal investigation into the business dealings of his father, Major General Carlos F. Garcia, a former comptroller of the Armed Forces of the Philippines....In April, Garcia says he was asked to hand over his “apartment and bank accounts.” He protested. “I knew that it was all bullshit. I was like, ‘No! I will never waver in the conviction of my father’s innocence and doing that would just hurt my father’s case.” The government still contends that some of that $6.2 million dollars went into purchasing the Trump Plaza apartment. The government also says the Garcias transferred $2 million from the Philippines to the United States.

On June 8, Garcia was released from prison on a million-dollar bail...Garcia shows me his bedroom, equipped with two flat-screen TVs and a wall of DVDs. By his computer are two vintage Cher dolls. Piled on the floor are a half-dozen orange Hermes boxes. At the bottom of the closet, three gigantic Louis Vuitton suitcases are filled with clothes. By the bathroom door, a rolling rack sags under the weight of a giant pile of couture. Garcia has been a fashion fiend since he was a kid. He counts YSL by Stefano Pilati, Dior Homme by Kris Van Assche and Marc Jacobs as his favorite labels...House arrest definitely dampers Garcia’s glamorous life. He’s accustomed to being a regular at store parties and nightclubs like The Rose Bar in the Gramercy Park Hotel. ...The forfeiture case against Garcia and his mother was stayed on March 10 to allow the Philippine prosecution and investigation to proceed – and possibly seize the Park Avenue pied-a-terre. While Garcia waits to see whether he will lose his apartment, his bank accounts and be extradited back to the Philippines, he continues to work hard at Marc by Marc Jacobs...

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Corruption’s gratitude monies

First Posted 13:24:00 02/22/2011


The widening congressional investigation of systemic corruption in the Philippine military was triggered by an event that occurred on December 18, 2003 when US Customs agents at the San Francisco International Airport discovered and seized $100,000 in cash from two young Filipino-American brothers.

When the cash was discovered in their hand-carried luggage, the Garcia brothers—Juan Carlo and Ian Carl—explained that they did not have “any bad nor malicious intentions on our non-declaration of the money… (and only) brought such amount of money as requested to us by our parents, my father, Carlos F. Garcia, a Filipino and my mother, Clarita D. Garcia, US citizen …to pay the tuition and registration fees of (brother) Timothy Mark who was accepted this school year at Parsons School, NY and to pay the initial down payment of the condominium he intends to stay.”

The explanation did not satisfy the US Customs officials who informed them that they could recover the money if they could prove that it came from legitimate sources. Although the brothers filed a petition to recover the money, they decided not to pursue it. But their mother, Clarita Garcia, believed that she could secure the return of their cash by submitting a letter to the US Customs from her husband, Maj. Gen. Carlos F. Garcia, the comptroller of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), attesting to his sources of income.

After the general's letter failed to convince US Customs to release the funds, Clarita Garcia then arranged to fly from New York to San Francisco to meet with a special agent of US Customs, Matthew Van Dyke, to personally explain the family’s sources of income. 

Based on the interview of Clarita Garcia conducted on April 5, 2004, Van Dyke prepared a sworn statement which the general's wife signed in his presence the following day.

In her sworn statement, Clarita asserted that her husband’s position in the AFP “is one of privilege” and that “the gratitude monies that he receives is common and unsolicited …from Philippine companies that were awarded military contracts to build roads, bridges and houses for the military.”

Desiring to impress Van Dyke about her husband’s stature, Clarita added that she had five drivers provided by the AFP to drive five military vehicles provided to her husband along with a 4,000 gallon monthly gasoline allowance. She even had an AFP cook who played the piano for her “when asked”. 

Instead of convincing US Customs to release the funds, the sworn statement of Clarita Garcia caused the US government to initiate a full-scale investigation of all the Garcias and the “gratitude monies” they were bringing into the US. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) records disclosed that $308,000 was deposited in the Citibank account of Clarita Garcia at the New York branch located at One Park Avenue in January of 2004.

The investigation showed that Clarita Garcia was aware of the legal requirement to declare the amount of currency above $10,000 being brought into the US because six months before the $100,000 was seized from her sons for non-declaration, she entered the US carrying $48,000 which she declared. In fact, the day before her sons were caught with undeclared cash, she brought in $100,000 which she also declared. The following month, when she arrived in San Francisco, Clarita Garcia declared to US Customs that she had $204,230 in her possession.

The US government’s investigation of the Garcias identified three assets in the US listed under the name of Clarita Garcia-- a $765,000 Trump Park Avenue Condominium at 502 Park Avenue, New York; a $750,000 apartment at 222 East 34th Street, also in New York, and a house at 625 Vancouver Drive, Westerville, Ohio.

Those assets could only have been purchased with “gratitude monies” as the highest monthly salary ever drawn by Gen. Garcia as AFP Comptroller was P37,000 ($950). 

The US government’s findings were then transmitted to the Office of the Ombudsman in the Philippines which then conducted an investigation of Garcia’s Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN). On September 14, 2004, Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo found the allegations to be “prima facie” against Gen. Garcia and ordered him suspended for six months without pay.

The following month, the House of Representatives subpoenaed Gen. Garcia to a hearing to ask him about the US government’s findings. When Garcia finally appeared at the House hearing, after twice failing to appear “for medical reasons”, he invoked his right against self-incrimination at least 50 times.

Rep. Imee Marcos (now Ilocos Norte governor) informed the press that according to “insider” information, “a group of defense contractors and retired and active military officers were putting together a P50-million fund to stop ongoing inquiries into the ill-gotten wealth of AFP generals.”

On October 12, 2004, the AFP initiated court martial proceedings against Garcia for fraud and for being a green-card holder.

In the same month, the Ombudsman filed before the Sandiganbayan a petition against Garcia for forfeiture of unlawfully acquired properties and other assets totaling P303M ($6.7M) and for perjury for failing to disclose his assets in his SALN for the years 1997-2000. 

On May 2005, Garcia was arrested and arraigned before the Sandiganbayan and incarcerated in Camp Crame.

On December 2, 2005, the military court martial convicted Garcia of undeclared wealth, dishonorably dismissed him from the military and sentenced him to two years of hard labor.

On May 22, 2006, the Sandiganbayan Court acquitted Garcia of one of the perjury charges, saying that Garcia was only required by law to disclose the income of his spouse but not her personal assets. This interpretation of the SALN law opened a legal loophole for corrupt officials to hide their ill-gotten wealth.

In December of 2010, after serving his court martial sentence and while awaiting trial of his plunder case in the Sandiganbayan, Garcia was released on P60,000 ($1300) bail for the otherwise non-bailable offense of plunder. The prosecutors of new Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez entered into a plea bargain with Garcia that allowed him to plead guilty to lesser offenses of indirect bribery and violation of the anti-money laundering act.

The P50-M ($1.2M) fund that Imee Marcos talked about may have been put to good use to shorten a court process that would normally take at least three months. On December 16, 2010, Garcia’s lawyer was allowed to file a petition for bail, to have it scheduled on the Sandiganbayan court calendar, and to have it granted—all in just one day. 

Ironically, the sweetheart deal backfired when public outrage caused the Philippine Congress to conduct investigations that would eventually expose what Garcia’s secret backers precisely hoped to hide.

On January 26, 2011, the Philippine Senate Blue Ribbon Committee conducted a hearing on corruption in the Philippine military with former AFP budget officer Col. George Rabusa appearing as a witness along with former AFP Chiefs of Staff Gen. Angelo Reyes and Gen. Jacinto Ligot.

Rabusa testified that his boss, AFP Comptroller Gen. Garcia, had access to an AFP slush fund that was created from salaries of non-living soldiers and overcharged military equipment. From this fund, Garcia directed him to give P50M to Reyes when he retired as AFP chief in 2001 as his “pabaon” (send-off money). “We had to convert it into dollars because it was bulky,” he said. He testified that other succeeding AFP heads, such as Generals Diomedio Villanueva and Roy Cimatu, also received “pabaon”.

It was also disclosed that the wife of Gen. Ligot had purchased nine houses in the United States and that she frequently visited the US with the wife of Gen. Reyes, who was regularly provided with $20,000 for every trip.

About a week after the senate hearing, CBS News filed this report: “A corruption scandal in which retired Philippine generals and their wives were accused of living lavishly off funds skimmed from one of Asia's weakest armies took a dramatic turn Tuesday with the apparent suicide of a former military chief."

"Retired Gen. Angelo Reyes, 65, was pronounced dead on arrival at a Manila hospital from a single gunshot wound to the chest after visiting his mother's grave, Health Secretary Enrique Ona said. Reyes, a prominent figure, had been accused along with two other former Philippine military chiefs of embezzling at least $1 million from the armed forces.”

What ever became of the two sons of Gen. Garcia whose failed attempt to smuggle $100,000 resulted in the corruption investigation that took the life of Gen. Reyes?

In December 2008, a San Francisco federal grand jury indicted Juan Carlo for carrying $50,000 in envelopes placed inside a jacket in his carry-on luggage and Ian Carl for hiding envelopes containing another $50,000 inside a pair of shoes in his carry-on bag and in an inside pocket of the luggage.

On September 9, 2010, they each pled guilty in federal court before U.S. District Judge Marilyn Patel to a charge of smuggling bulk currency for the purpose of evading reporting requirements.

Under a plea agreement with the US Attorney, the two Garcia sons forfeited the $100,000 cash to the US government and were sentenced to time already served of three months and 10 days in prison and one and 1/2 years on electronic monitoring.

What about Clarita Garcia whose candid admissions about her husband’s receipt of “gratitude monies” ignited the investigation?

On March 5, 2009, Clarita Garcia and her son, Timothy Mark Garcia, were arrested by ICE agents in Michigan and New York on the basis of an official extradition request by the Philippine government received by the US government on February 27, 2009. After spending 90 days in jail, both were released upon posting $1 million bail bond.

The status of their extradition proceedings is currently on hold pending the progress of the plunder case in the Philippines against Gen. Garcia.

(Send comments to or mail them to the Law Offices of Rodel Rodis at 2429 Ocean Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94127 or call 415.334.7800.)


Zoom ImageZoom   A message from former COA Auditor
 Heidi Mendoza
Greetings of Peace! In the middle of the raging controversies that our country is facing, one glaring truth cannot simply be ignored. There is a brewing tension between good and evil and I believe now is the time to for a baptized Catholic and a Christian public servant like me to run to my mentors and seek the comfort of the church.

As many of you would know, I accepted the General Garcia case not as another audit engagement sometime in October 2004. It was a result of prayerful discernment and a series of consultation with guardians of my faith. I went beyond the call of duty and closed my eyes to my personal fears, guided by the thought that my heart is in the right place.

The assignment just like any Christian experience is not smooth sailing. There are challenges coming from the very institutions that are supposed to protect the interest of the people. I stood firm though I cannot deny that there were several instances when convictions and beliefs simply failed to sustain me. As history will tell, then, Ombudsman Marcelo resigned, I was left to seek help from my own office the Commission on Audit. The response is again a challenge to ordinary faith. No less than the former Chair convinced me to simply return the documents my team gathered and close the case. "Christ himself failed to save the world so how can ordinary mortals like us dream of succeeding in the fight against corruption when obviously it is a fight between good and evil."

Perhaps I am not willing to give up my flickering hope and diminishing faith inside that I just decided to quit from a 20 year old job. In March 16, 2006, on the birth of my father who has painstakingly shown me the values of honest and dedicated public service, I filed my resignation.

In October 2007, the state prosecutors handling the case, begged me to help the government and with minor convincing, I agreed. I appeared at Sandiganbayan for more than 16 times and in between those hearing, I felt the absence of the public support which I think is critical to cases such as this. In one instance, in open court hearing, I was astounded when the defense lawyer slapped before my face the copy of the letter of the CoA chair denying the creation of an audit team that took care of the investigation. It's the biggest test to my faith. No less than the accused told me that I am a liar and that there will be a reckoning day for me"

It is in this particular time that I sought for a God with His mighty arm that will simply strike the opponents of truth with his blazing sword. At the same time, I sought for the wounded and agonizing face of my savior so I can draw some strength and the passion to go on. I felt so alone that prayers alone are not sufficient to console me, I was then literally reaching to a God whom I can hold, I can touch, I can embrace! He did not deprive me of this longing, when you texted me on that date, I realized that God has gone high tech and invaded the virtual world.

I thought that the challenge was ended, the moment I completed my appearances before the Sandiganbayan. I was wrong. Last March 12, 2010 I personally saw the signed plea bargain agreement but I must admit that I have been weakened by my own experience and already afraid to give up the comfortable life that I have. Still however, I searched my conscience and shared these with few trusted friends. As a consequence of my fear, we now have a seeming triumph of evil versus the truth.

Last December 23, 2010, I filed my resignation from my current employer in response to a conscience call. It is my Christian calling that I cannot ignore that is why I went out of my comfort zone and together with my entire family heed the call to embrace this cause with the same passion when I started it.

I seek your assistance, I am reaching out for help in making a united stand. Sinners as we are, I am confident that God will bless the pure longing of our broken heart if we are willing to make a sacrifice.

The government that we have right now is certainly not perfect, but I think it is the only Government that we have and the government that we deserve. The plea bargain happened during the dark years of the previous administration. Together we need to inform our people, we need to make a united stand.

In ending, let me express my gratitude to the only people I looked up with so much faith and respect. The recent events have shown me that the truth is unveiled not in the brilliant minds of men but only in the hearts of men burning with Love and Faith.

I would like to apologize, if there are any courtesies which I have not observed. I am asking for prayers not only for my family but for the entire country.

Marami pong salamat!

Heidi Mendoza

A Letter to the President from
 Fr. Albert E. Alejo SJ
Team Leader, Ehem! Anticorruption Movement
9 January 2011

President, Republic of the Philippines

Your Excellency:

Magandang araw po mula sa Jesuit Ehem Anticorruption Program!

It is with deep conviction and prayerful discernment that I personally endorse to you MS. HEIDI L. MENDOZA for the post of Commissioner at the Commission on Audit. I have personally known Ms. Mendoza in our work in various anticorruption advocacies, especially as a vibrant partner and speaker in our nationwide Ehem! Anticorruption Movement, which I lead. She is also a staunch ally of the Dilaab Movement, under the prophetic leadership of Fr. Carmelo Diola. Unknown to many, Heidi Mendoza did much of the investigation on the plunder case against Gen. Garcia. I have full confidence that this frail but firm woman is one of the rare breed of Filipinos that our country in crisis needs right now.

Technical and Moral Competence

Heidi Mendoza is a highly competent practitioner in the field. She has two MA degrees from reputable institutions. She is a Certified Public Accountant, with masters degree in Public Administration specializing in fiscal administration, from University of the Philippines. She is also a graduate of National Defense College of the Philippines, having finished her Masters in National Security Administration (MNSA) in 2003.

While on scholarship, she did not hesitate to help in the issuance of the Cease and Desist Order to Land Bank of the Philippines in order to prevent a fraudulent transaction from being paid using her audit report and despite her low position at CoA. It is for this that former Tanodbayan Simeon Marcelo personally picked her to head the Gen. Garcia investigation in 2004.

In 2005, she applied for the post of CoA Commissioner but there seems to be no place for her in the GMA administration despite the strong recommendation from the church, civil society and the business sector including Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Makati Business Club.

In 2006, she decided to leave CoA because of its leaders' refusal to continue the audit of the Gen. Garcia plunder case and file the audit report that her team had prepared. Immediately after, she was hired by contracting companies for the EU Delegation in the Philippines which started her career as governance and anticorruption consultant initially with AusAID then with Asian Development Bank. On some occasions she also accepted part time consultancy with World Bank on matters related to Public Financial Management.

On October 1, 2010, she joined ADB as a permanent staff working on country partnership strategies for the Philippine Country Office. (I remember her expressing to me her feeling guilty for getting good compensation.) On December 23, 2010, she chose to resign again in order to extend the much needed help to the government in pursuing the Garcia case and standing against the plea bargain agreement. Without thinking of financial security and her own and that of her family, she looked for ways in order to reach out for people in your administration so that the right information can be in the hands of the right people.

She could have kept quiet and enjoy a comfortable life. She could have been satisfied having rendered an unsullied 20 years of dedicated public service. She could have simply said, "My 16 appearances before the Sandiganbayan are enough!" But Heidi has chosen to pick up the fight because she knows that the public is being disadvantaged. She did all this, guided by strong faith and conviction that the country deserves no less.

Spiritual Stamina

On top of these professional and moral merits, I would add Heidi's spiritual stamina. Like all human beings, she is afraid to die. But unlike most of us---including myself as a priest---Heidi shows an uncommon fortitude in facing threats of death and the temptation to prioritize her family interest over the public good. Perhaps because her family itself, starting from her husband Meynardo Mendoza, who is a political science professor at the Ateneo de Manila University, is one with her in her conviction.

I have been around in anticorruption movement for the last ten years. People ask me why I do not lose hope in the midst of our perennial crisis. My answer is that I still see a number of people who embody the best and the noblest in our Filipino and Christian tradition---competence and conscience in public service. And when pressed for example, one person that I readily site is Heidi Mendoza, a tried and tested auditor. If given a chance, she will definitely push for a more active participation of the public in enforcing accountability, and introduce some of the much needed reforms in the Government's own auditors.

In spite of my own painful analysis of our Philippine situation, I still nurture the hope that Government is sincere in serving the people by cleaning up its ranks of public servants and by putting good people in key positions of responsibility. If this is true, then I have no doubt that Heidi Mendoza should be placed where she is most needed---as Commissioner of the Commission on Audit.

As I end, I wish to take this opportunity to thank Your Excellency for signing a copy of my book, Ehemplo, through the kindness of Sr. Agnes of the Zamboanga Carmelite Community.

Sincerely yours,

Fr. Albert E. Alejo SJ, PhD
Team Leader, Ehem! Anticorruption Movement
Author, Ehemplo: Spirituality of Shared Integrity in Philippine Church and Society
Jesuit Philippine Province
Mobile: 09177045474

Why Heidi  Mendoza came out with all guns blazing 
By Leila B. Salaverria, Delfin Mallari Jr., Inquirer Southern Luzon
Philippine Daily Inquirer - 02/03/2011

—Talk that she would be blamed for a weak plunder case against former military comptroller Carlos Garcia prompted former state auditor Heidi Mendoza to speak out against the prosecutors’ decision to enter into a plea bargain deal with the retired major general.

This was according to former Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo, one of those whom Mendoza had consulted before she surfaced to tell the country that there was evidence to pin down Garcia.

Her elder sister said Mendoza’s decision to expose corruption in the military was simply living up to the final words of their father.

“Before our father died, the last message that he left to us was: ‘Huwag kayong kakain ng anuman na galing sa nakaw. Magtiis sa kahirapan at magtiyaga kung anuman ang mayroon sa buhay. (Don’t eat anything that came from theft. Bear poverty and whatever you have),’” said Mendoza’s sister, Gigi de Castro.

“No coercion and any form of harassment can break her will and no material things can tempt her to back out,” De Castro said in a phone interview on Wednesday from the nearby city of Tayabas in Quezon province.

Their father, Agapito Lloce Sr., a retired policeman, died in 1983 from a heart ailment and diabetes.

Mendoza, who led a team that audited military transactions between 2004 and 2006, testified in the plunder case against Garcia. She detailed a transaction involving a P200-million check, of which P50 million was unaccounted for.

Prosecutors earlier said that Mendoza’s testimony had been debunked by military personnel, who testified that the Armed Forces had been able to reconcile the discrepancy that the auditor found.

It was Mendoza who made up her mind to come out in the open, but she was not alone when she made that difficult choice, Marcelo said.

Ateneo support group

Marcelo said Mendoza’s husband, a group of friends from Ateneo de Manila University that included Fr. Bert Alejo, and members of nongovernment organizations were with Mendoza when she was weighing the pros and cons of speaking publicly.

The meeting took place at the Ateneo School of Governance in Makati City last month.

Before the meeting, Marcelo said he had been regularly in touch with Mendoza. He said Mendoza had been giving him words of support because he was speaking out against the plea bargain deal and as a result became a target of criticism.


Some time last month, Mendoza called Marcelo up to relay what she was told—that there was talk that she would be among those to be blamed for the weak evidence against Garcia.

Marcelo and former Special Prosecutor Dennis Villa-Ignacio were the others who would be blamed for the weak case. “She told me, ‘what will happen? The public would not know the truth,’” Marcelo said.

Losing ADB job

Marcelo told Mendoza that she would have to decide for herself, since she could lose a very good job at the Asian Development Bank if she speaks up.

But Mendoza told Marcelo that she was having difficulty sleeping over the matter and then called for a meeting with friends.

At the meeting, the group talked about the risks of speaking out against the prosecutors’ stand that the case against Garcia was weak. The group also told her that coming out publicly was a decision that was hers to make alone.

Danger to family

One of the points raised at the meeting was that coming forward would have grave repercussions on Mendoza’s family.

Marcelo said he had pointed out that one of the witnesses in the plunder case against deposed President Joseph Estrada continued to have a guard even 10 years after the case. He said life for the witness was never the same even after the case was completed.

But Mendoza’s resolve to tell her story apparently outweighed the risks she could face. “She said, ‘If I don’t come out, it would be the same. I would never feel comfortable,”’ Marcelo narrated.

Talk with husband

Mendoza then took her husband aside and they talked. Afterward, she came up to the group and said she would speak up. She asked the group to help her with advice, with legal counsel and with security.

She also gave the go-signal for the airing of the first TV interview that she gave. She had agreed to the interview on the condition that it would not air until she says so.

Clan proud of Heidi

All of Lloce’s seven children—5 girls and 2 boys—hail from Tayabas at the foot of the mystical Mount Banahaw. Mendoza is the second to the youngest.

“Our father died with an unblemished record as a policeman. Heidi’s ongoing battle now against graft and corruption mirrors our father’s legacy. The whole clan is proud of her,” De Castro said.

Johnny Glorioso, dzMM news correspondent and long-time resident of Tayabas, remembered the elder Lloce as a member of the local police force.

“He is one fine example of an honest cop,” Glorioso said. “No wonder Heidi is now showing signs of the character of her late father.”

Lack of sleep

De Castro said she was able to talk with her younger sister on Tuesday evening.

“We all pity her. She’s now frail because of lack of sleep, tension and all,” she said, her voice trembling.

“She was very apologetic when she told me that all her family members should avoid making phone calls to her. That we should be contented with sending text messages but not so often. She’s really sorry that our lives will all be affected because of her current situation. But we all understand her,” De Castro added.

De Castro said, however, that she once asked Mendoza to stop her battle against influential and moneyed military officials for the safety of her own family but the advice was ignored.

Lots of blessings

De Castro remembered her sister’s response to her plea: “I have already received lots of blessings from the Lord. I could not turn my back on this little task that He assigned to me. I’m just His instrument to uphold the truth. What I have with me are documents, all products of my faithful investigation as a public servant.”

She said her sister, whom she described as courageous, intelligent and principled, reminded her that she was just obeying their father’s last message in his deathbed.

De Castro said her sister would not accept any form of gifts, not even fruits or gasoline money, and had been reluctant to give her calling card, especially to government officials with graft cases.


Mendoza graduated valedictorian in her high school class in a private academy in Tayabas and obtained her college degree at Sacred Heart College in Lucena City.

She left Tayabas after her graduation in the early 1980s and immediately worked at the Commission on Audit. She married a college professor in a Manila university. They have three children, all college students, according to her sister.

Tayabas Vice Mayor Venerando Rea said Mendoza was often invited as a guest speaker at graduation rites in her hometown. He recalled that the last time he heard her give a graduation message was when she urged the graduating class to be honest in all their dealings in life.

Rea said the local government of Tayabas would adopt a resolution declaring its support for Mendoza.

Heidi Mendoza's hubby:
It's a fight of every Filipino
By Kristine L. Alave, Jocelyn R. Uy
Philippine Daily Inquirer | February 5, 2011

It's hard to be a spouse to someone like her, but I'm proud of her," Meynardo "Roy" Mendoza said.

The husband of former state auditor Heidi Mendoza went public on Friday, saying her fight was "not hers alone [but] the fight of every Filipino."

A professor of history at Ateneo de Manila University, Mendoza said he was standing by his wife, who had uncovered and testified on irregularities in military transactions during the term of Armed Forces comptroller Carlos Garcia.

"Walang iwanan (We'll stand together)," he said in an interview at a rally and noise barrage conducted by civil society groups in front of the Ateneo gates on Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City, to express support for his wife.

Heidi Mendoza led a team that audited military transactions in connection with the P303-million plunder case against Garcia.

In her testimony, she said that contrary to the statements of government prosecutors, there was strong evidence to nail Garcia for plunder.

Garcia has entered a plea bargain with the Office of the Ombudsman, under which he was allowed to plead guilty to lesser offenses and subsequently granted bail.

The controversial agreement is now the subject of congressional inquiries at which Heidi Mendoza has testified.

Roy Mendoza said he was thankful to those who were backing his wife.

"We want to give our wholehearted thanks to those who support her and those who cried with her," he said, noting that the disruption in their family life was exhausting for his wife.

He said his wife did not want to come out in the open at first, "but she was hurt that her colleagues in COA were being pressured to turn against her and her work."

Damaged institutions

Roy Mendoza lamented how government officials had worked against public interest.

"We saw yesterday at the Senate the extent of how the institutions were badly damaged by the past administration," he said, referring to the Thursday hearing at the Senate where retired Lt. Col. George Rabusa, a former budget officer of the Armed Forces, detailed how a purported slush fund in the hundreds of millions of pesos benefited the military brass.

Roy Mendoza called on the Supreme Court to lift the temporary restraining order on the impeachment proceedings against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.

He also appealed to lawmakers to train their sights on the military officers named by Rabusa.

"This should be not about us but about the issues," he said.

On Katipunan, civil society groups and members of the Ateneo community waved banners, beat on gongs and blew horns to show that they were on Heidi Mendoza's side.

Busina Para Sa Katotohanan, an alliance of civil society groups, said the military officials involved in corrupt activities should be punished.

It said that under the new Aquino administration, the guilty should be punished.

It also called on other people in the government service who knew of irregularities to come forward and tell the truth.

Sanctuary fund

Having earlier declared support for Heidi Mendoza, the Catholic Church on Friday launched an appeal for contributions to the sanctuary fund it had started for the plucky mother of three.

Fr. Anton Pascual, executive director of Caritas Manila, the Archdiocese of Manila's charity arm, said the fund was intended for modern-day heroes who expose corruption in the government.

He also said the Church was ready to secure Heidi Mendoza and her family.

Heidi Mendoza resigned from the Commission on Audit in 2006, saying she did not get support for her investigation and findings. She also quit her job at the Asian Development Bank last month, and is now jobless.

"They need help ... Her children are still in school and she lost her job because she wanted to tell the truth," Pascual said over the Church-run Radyo Veritas, where he also aired his appeal for donations, in cash or in kind, for the Mendoza family.

Pascual said he had talked with Fr. Emmanuel Sarez, the Mendozas' parish priest at the Maria Della Strada Parish on Katipunan, for the fundraising.

"The parish is in all-out support for her and it is also accepting donations for her family," Pascual said. He said other donors could also extend help through Radyo Veritas.

Protection program

Pascual said the Church was launching its own witness protection program, and that it was ready to make room for the Mendozas to ensure their security.

"The Church is offering this because we all know that it has the moral ascendancy and credibility when it comes to extending help to those who are in need, especially those whose lives are at risk for speaking the truth," he said.

Pascual said that with more people coming out to expose corruption in the government, it was high time for the Church to establish its own witness protection program "because it has the people's trust."

Kin proud of whistle-blower auditor

By Delfin Mallari Jr.
Inquirer Southern Luzon, 02/02/2011

Former state auditor Heidi Mendoza, who has come out in the open to expose alleged corruption among top military officials in the country, was simply living up to the final words of their father, her elder sister said.

“Before our father died, the last message that he left to us was: "Huwag kayong kakain ng anuman na galing sa nakaw. Magtiis sa kahirapan at magtiyaga kung anuman ang mayroon sa buhay. (Don’t eat anything that came from theft. Bear poverty and whatever you have.)"

“No coercion and any form of harassment can break her will and no material things can tempt her to back out,” Gigi de Castro, Mendoza’s sister, said in a phone interview Wednesday from the nearby town of Tayabas.

Their father, Agapito Lloce Sr., a retired policeman, died in 1983 from heart ailment and diabetes.

All Lloce’s seven children—five girls and two boys—hail from Tayabas at the foot of the Mount Banahaw. Mendoza is the second to the youngest.

Mendoza, who led a team that audited military transactions between 2004 and 2006, testified in the plunder case against former military comptroller Carlos Garcia. She detailed a transaction involving a P200 million check, of which P50 million was unaccounted for.

“Our father died with an unblemished record as a policeman. Heidi’s ongoing battle now against graft and corruption mirrors our father’s legacy. The whole clan is proud of her,” said De Castro.

Johnny Glorioso, dzMM news correspondent and long-time resident of Tayabas, remembered the elder Lloce as a member of the local police force.

“He is one fine example of an honest cop. He is a straight and dedicated policeman. No wonder Heidi is now showing the character of her late father,” Glorioso said.

De Castro said she was able to talk with her younger sister Tuesday evening. “We all pity her. She’s now frail because of lack of sleep, tension and all,” she said, her voice trembling on the phone out of sympathy for her sibling.

“She was very apologetic when she told me that all her family members should avoid making phone calls to her. That we should be contented with sending text messages but not so often. She’s really sorry that our lives will all be affected because of her current situation. But we all understand her,” De Castro said.

De Castro said, however, that she once asked Mendoza to stop her battle against influential and moneyed military officials for the safety of her own family but the advice was ignored.

De Castro remembered Mendoza’s response to her plea: “I have already received lots of blessings from the Lord, I could not turn my back to this little task that He assigned to me. I’m just His instrument to uphold the truth. What I have with me are only documents, all products of my faithful investigation as a public servant.”

She said her sister, whom she described as courageous, intelligent and principled, reminded her that she’s just obeying their father’s last message in his deathbed.

De Castro said Heidi would not accept any form of gifts, not even fruits or gasoline money, and had been reluctant to give her calling cards, especially to government officials with graft cases.

“She’s afraid that the card will only be used by unscrupulous recipients,” she added.

Mendoza graduated valedictorian in her high school class in a private academy in Tayabas and obtained her college degree at the Sacred Heart College in Lucena City.

Mendoza left Tayabas after her graduation in the early 1980s and immediately worked with the Commission on Audit. She married a college professor in a Manila university. They have three children, all college students, according to her sister.

Tayabas Vice Mayor Venerando Rea said Mendoza was often invited as a guest speaker at graduation rites in her hometown. He recalled that the last time he heard her give a graduation message was when she urged the graduating class to be honest in all their dealings in life.

Rea said the local government of Tayabas would adopt a resolution declaring their support for Mendoza in her quest to clean the military institution of vestiges of corruption.

De Castro said Mendoza planned to spend the last Christmas in Tayabas but was not able to make it due to the demands of her ongoing crusade against graft and corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“She was supposed to spend the holiday here in Tayabas to rest. She apologized to us when she canceled her vacation here,” she said.

De Castro said she went to the “Kamay ni Hesus” shrine in nearby town of Lucban early morning Wednesday and prayed for the safety of her younger sister.

General  Heidi





We have a true ‘soldier’ in the form of anti-corruption fighter Heidi Mendoza –we just need to encourage more people like her to step forward and join her army.


Make no mistake, there is such an army out there – for just as there are legions of very honest, upstanding and committed soldiers in the AFP – so there are many similar-minded people in government service. They just have been quiet – and scared up until now.


All armies require leaders and the Philippine Public Transparency Reporting Project salutes the former state auditor for her great courage and leadership in standing up to testify before the House of Representatives Justice Committee on the controversial plea bargain agreement of former military comptroller Carlos Garcia.


Mendoza’s statement that it was a “lonely, risky fight” in helping build a case against a member of the country’s most hierarchical institution is a painful truth. What she had to deal with in terms of battling her so-called “superiors” who ought to have known better but instead reportedly urged her to stop or slow down her investigation only makes her more of a real heroine.  I write “so-called” superiors meaning in rank only, not in honor or integrity, values or commitment – the real things that matter.


That the work she and her audit team were doing was so little known publicly until now shows up how isolated such people have been in the past.


This must change. Whistleblowers  have for way too long been vilified in our society when instead their courage should be trumpeted from the highest rooftops. We take great pride in the achievements of Manny Pacquiao – but we should be just as impressed, if not more so, with those of the achievements of Heidi Mendoza.


I first met her at the launching of the Open Budget Partnership at the Discovery Suites in Ortigas two months ago. The Open Budget Partnership aims to increase links between and among members of government, civil society, media, business, and other interested groups in helping the public understand, monitor and have a say on developing and managing the country’s budget. It was a shame I did not know then that behind this lively woman with slightly brown hair and who talked passionately of her cats was this country’s newest champion.


From all the communications we regularly get at the Philippine Public Transparency Reporting Project we know that there are many more Heidi’s out there – they are more wary, nervous and circumspect perhaps – but they are just as disgusted and outraged that public service has such a tainted reputation in the Philippines because the system doesn’t properly protect them.


This too must change. We must find much better ways of strengthening the system so it favors the unsung heroes among us in public service who only want to work to the best of their ability and to go home each day proud and content that they are making a difference in the Philippines.


Thanks to Heidi, we have taken a critical step in the right direction. But it is now up to all of us to keep on pushing and moving forward together, supporting and protecting each other and building up the army of change. This country needs and will see many more Heidi’s – just as long as we can all collectively start showing how much we value and admire them.


Let us not put their courage to waste.


Rorie R. Fajardo

Project Manager

Philippine Public Transparency Reporting Project


AFP's messy records, banking
malpractices ‘perfect for crime’

 The disorganized financial records of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and bank officials who fail to follow acceptable practices are a breeding ground for financial crimes, fraud expert Heidi Mendoza noted on Friday.

At another inquiry on corruption in the military at the Senate, Mendoza, a former state auditor, noted that possible fraudulent practices were committed at the AFP since its financial records are a mess.

She also scored officials of local bank United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) for perpetuating the military financial malpractices when they failed to observe mandated procedures in banking transactions.

"Fake ang passbook, walang bank reconciliation, delayed accounting - This was a perfect menu for a crime," she told senators at the hearing.

Mendoza was tasked to follow the money trail of funds allegedly siphoned away by former military comptroller Carlos Garcia who was charged with plunder, which is non-bailable.

The hearing was held after the Office of the Ombudsman entered into a plea bargaining agreement with Garcia that allowed him to walk free last December.

On Friday, Mendoza described a labyrinth of bank transactions of the AFP with different UCPB branches. She was trying to show how the funds could have been mismanaged, even possibly lost, in that maze.

Disorganized records

Mendoza bewailed how AFP's financial records were not updated, making her and her audit team's work of going through the documentary trail a painstaking work.

She said that AFP has bank accounts in UCPB's various branches in Metro Manila and Visayas, but these were not reflected in the financial books of the military institution.

"There was no bank inquiry [by the AFP]... Only when we (her audit team) did a bank inquiry [did we know that there were UCPB accounts]... But these are not reflected in the books of AFP," she told the senators.

Some UCPB bank accounts in three Makati branches under the account name "AFP Inter-Agency Transfer Fund" are not in the official records of AFP itself.

"(These UCPB bank accounts were) as if personal funds," Mendoza stressed while explaining how unaccounted bank accounts could be a hotbed for wrongdoings.

The AFP maintains an official bank account at the Greenhills branch of state-run Land Bank in San Juan, Metro Manila.

It is in this Land Bank account, which is reflected on AFP's official records, that funds from various military fund sources -- pension fund, peacekeeping fund from the United Nations (UN), Balikatan Funds from the United States, and the AFP Modernization Funds -- are deposited.

Already, accounting for the transactions that involve each fund sources in this Land Bank account has been difficult, Mendoza said, as records that support some of the transactions were not immediately available.

Nonetheless, Mendoza's team discovered the UCPB bank accounts when they were tracing the whereabouts of about P200 million funds, which are part of the UN Peacekeeping Funds for Filipino troops sent abroad.

The P200 million turned out to have been transferred from Land Bank to 3 accounts in 2 UCPB branches in Makati City.

At the time, Mendoza's team were trying to help the Office of the Ombudsman, then under Simeon Marcelo, in building the plunder case against Garcia.

Garcia signed some of the bank documents in the creation of and succeeding transactions in these UCPB accounts.

(Read more on the P200 million 'smoking gun' on the military fund mess here.)

AFP's financial health

Mendoza also scored the AFP for delays in reconciling their internal financial records with those of its banks.

"When we were [checking if there was a] bank reconciliation in 2004, [we learned that even the] 2002 was not yet finished," Mendoza shared.

She stressed this to show that AFP's accounting group may have not been sure of the real state of the institution's financial health when they informed the government prosecutors under the Office of the Ombudsman led by Merceditas Gutierrez that all the UN Peacekeeping funds have been accounted for.

"I am stressing (that) such delay was too costly... We are talking of 2 to 6 years (of) delay in the conduct of bank reconciliation," she said.

Accountants regulary conduct bank reconciliation to determine if the payees of their issued checks have already encashed or deposited the them in a bank.

Mendoza also noted that the issuance of checks was not always the method used to move funds around.

She said that banks effected deposits and withdrawals through "debit and credit memoes."

While these "memoes" are not an unusual banking practice, these bank transactions could have been better monitored if AFP's accounting group regularly conduct bank reconcilations and update their bank records.

Banks' lapses

What surprised Mendoza and her team were how the banks effected these debit and credit memoes.

For example, some P22.8 million out of the AFP Modernization Funds were supposed to have been erroneously withdrawn from the "AFP Interagency Transfer Fund" account in UCPB branch in Alfaro, Makati City.

This amount was part of the Modernization Funds that Mendoza and her audit team were tracing. When they reportedly approached the UCPB-Alfaro branch, the bank officers only presented the "debit memo." They subsequently issued a "credit memo" to deposit back the P22.8 million.

To Mendoza's surprise, the bank officials allowed the withdrawal, which was 3 months before the bank was informed of the transaction, without any written instruction from the AFP or the government.

"(This withdrawal was) just based on a telephone instruction (from the AFP)," Mendoza shared.

"Do we realized the magnitude of the amounts involved here? These millions of pesos are moved just by (a) mere phone call," she said.

Tampered passbook

Mendoza also cited the case of a tampered passbook.

She noted that transaction entries in a passbook for the account of "AFP Interagency Transfer Fund" with UCPB-Alfaro in 2004 did not match.

In her powerpoint presentation, she showed that the bank account had a balance of P92.4 million as of May 19, 2004. The next entry, dated August 18, 2004, reflected a withdrawal amounting to P28.4 million.

The correct balance as of August 18 should have been P64 million, but the passbook showed a different account balance: only P28.4 million.

"The manager explained to me that there must have been a connivance [since there must have been someone in the bank who made the] command... to skip printing some transactions on the passbook," Mendoza shared.

These missing transactions on the passbook turned out to be payments to suppliers.

These supplier payments are themselves another set of complicated transactions, which involved the opening of another set of bank accounts -- by other AFP and the suppliers -- this time, with UCPB Salcedo branch, which is also in Makati.

These funds have something to do with the payment of medicines allegedly delivered to the UN peacekeeping forces.

As Mendoza's team further pored over these bank accounts and the suspicious movement of funds among and between bank accounts, the UCPB officials involved resigned.

Auditor / Whistleblower
Heidi Mendoza

Military corruption whistleblower is new audit commissioner

President Benigno Aquino III appointed Tuesday a former state auditor who helped expose alleged corruption in the military service as commissioner of the Commission on Audit (COA).

On Tuesday afternoon, Presidential Development and Strategic Planning Secretary Ricky Carandang announced Aquino's appointment of Heidi Mendoza as the newest commissioner of COA.

He said Aquino gave Mendoza a seven-year post in COA with her term expiring on February 2, 2018. She replaced Evelyn San Buenaventura.

Mendoza gained popularity by exposing the alleged "rotten system" in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) during Senate hearings on the plea bargaining deal entered by government prosecutors with former military comptroller Carlos Garcia, who is facing plunder charges.

Aside from Mendoza, Carandang also announced the appointment of Maria Gracia Pulido-Tan as chairman of COA with a term expiring February 2, 2015. Pulido-Tan replaced former COA chairman Reynaldo Villar.

"We wanted people who have a mix of skills administrative, operational, investigative, which both of these two have. So we think that they both highly qualified and they will make a very good team at the helm of COA," Carandang said.

President Aquino asked Mendoza to join the administration after being impressed by her bravery in her testimonies in Senate hearings and fighting the plea bargain deal that allowed former AFP comptroller Garcia to post bail.

Earlier, Mendoza was hesitant to accept any government post, following the stress she experienced when she testified against military officials and even her former superiors when she was still a COA auditor.

She eventually changed her mind and expressed desire to serve the COA as a commissioner.

Carandang confirmed that Mendoza was being considered for the COA chairmanship.

Asked whether a technicality prevented the former auditor from being chosen for the highest post, Carandang said: "We wanted a balance of people who have administrative and operational experience which Grace Tan has."

He added that with Pulido-Tan's vast expertise in law and finance, she would have a "narrow learning curve" as COA chairman.

Meanwhile, he noted that the investigative abilities and anti-corruption record of Mendoza made her more fit as COA commissioner.

"We expect them to carry out the duties of COA in the proper manner. And we believe they have the qualifications to serve their posts," Carandang said.

Mendoza worked for the COA for over 20 years and had been part of fraud audit investigations of government transactions.

She resigned from the COA in 2005 and had worked with the Asian Development Bank as program analyst before testifying in the senate hearings.

Carandang was not certain if Mendoza could still appear before the congressional probe following her appointment.

Mendoza is a reserve officer in military, with the rank of lieutenant colonel.

She finished a master's degree in national security administration at the National Defense College in Camp Aguinaldo in 2003, and master's in public administration at the University of the Philippines Diliman in 1996.

From Feb. 1 through April 6, 2011 a total of
media articles have mentioned Heidi Mendoza's role as an auditor and witness in the Philippine military corruption scandals and her appointment to COA.
On YouTube there are about
videos of Heidi or mentioning her testimony or related to her new post.

Get Your News Widget


We salute Heidi Mendoza 


As long as there is a Heidi Mendoza, there is hope for the Filipino nation.

Mendoza’s testimony about the pressures she had to deal with in uncovering the military corruption was so moving especially when she tearfully made a public appeal that her family be spared from harm. “Maawa kayo sa akin. Maawa kayo sa mga anak ko,” she pleaded, adding that in coming out she didn’t want to hurt anybody.

A daughter of a policeman, Mendoza is the former state auditor who investigated the case of former Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia, who served as military comptroller from 2001 to 2003.

Mendoza said she took on the challenge of investigating the alleged corruption in the military “to give honor to the soldiers who risk their lives in defense of the country.”

She said it was because of “sheer disgust over the corruption in government” that she is risking her safety and that of her family by testifying in the congressional investigation. She appealed to each and every one to do his share in stomping out corruption.

Heidi related that from the very beginning ,when then Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo requested for her help in the investigation, acting chairman of the Commission on Audit Emmanuel Dalman gave her permission but with the advice, “Dahan-dahan lang.” When she asked for clarification, Dalman said: “Kasi tinawagan tayo ng Palasyo.”

Mendoza recalled that Dalman’s words of caution came from the office of the Executive Secretary.

Former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita was at the hearing and he denied categorically that he gave the instruction for Mendoza to slow down in the investigation.

Heidi said her investigation covered the pension funds, the United Nations fund for peacekeepers, Balikatan, and modernization funds. In 2005, she made a presentation to Assistant COA Commissioner Emma Espina who discouraged her from doing a report of what she had discovered.

Later it was the COA chair himself, Guillermo Carague, who reportedly told her: “Don’t make the report anymore. Anyway, the Ombudsman (Marcelo) has resigned.”

She was dismayed. She asked what was supposed to do with the 12 boxes of evidence she had gathered. Caraque then allegedly told her: “Simple. Return the documents to where you got it.”

Since COA was not interested in her report, she made a Financial Investigation Report and submitted it to the Ombudsman. She said she never had a meeting with Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, unlike during the time of Marcelo with whom she worked closely with.

Some of the irregularities that she discovered:

  • P50 million of the P200 million from the UN in a convoluted and irregular deposit process that could not have happened without the cooperation of bank officials.
  • Three accounts were opened at the United Coconut Planters Bank, Alfaro branch where Ethel Bondoc was the manager. One account for P100 million, another for P50 million supposedly another fro P50 million. But the last P50 million had a passbook but not in the system.
  • Later on, another P50 million account at the Tordesillas branch of UCPB surfaced which the AFP and UCPB said was the missing P50 million. But Mendoza said the source of that P50 million was not the P200 million.

  • Discovered clearing accounts in Land Bank General Santos and Iloilo branches involving amounts as huge as $5 million.

    The wife of former comptroller Lt. Gen. (ret) Jacinto Ligot is from General Santos City while that of Garcia is from Iloilo.

    Rep. Roilo Golez said that practice is called “floating accounts” where money can be “parked” even for a day and earn millions of pesos in interest.

    Mendoza said that when she went to GenSan and Iloilo to look into the “clearing” account, she was told by bank officials they were non-existent.

    When Assistant Special Prosecutor Joseph Capistrano said that the UCPB and Bondoc issued a certification that the P50 million was not missing and it was found at the UCPB Tordesillas branch, Mendoza revealed a private mail from a member of the investigating team from the United States Department of Justice who said that Bondoc told them the UCPB did a “cover-up” of the missing P50 million.

    In the midst of all these, Ombudsman Gutierrez still insisted their evidence against Garcia was weak. It only shows that those who don’t want to look, will never see.

    Mendoza said her appearance at the House investigation was not to convict Garcia. Rather, she felt that she has no right to demand good governance from the government if she did not come out and tell the public what she knows on the matter.

    She said she wants to assure the public that not all in government are corrupt.
  • Lim donates P20k, raises funds for COA whistleblower

    Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim on Wednesday announced a fundraising project that will benefit former state auditor and whistleblower Heidi Mendoza.

    Lim said that he does not personally know Mendoza but was “touched” when he saw her on television last night. Lim described Mendoza as a “heroine” and expressed his support for her.

    The mayor said he will place boxes in churches, markets, and in the Manila City Hall where people can donate money to help Mendoza.

    As seed money, Lim personally donated P20,000 while the rest of his staff contributed another P20,000.

    Lim said he hopes that money will be able to help Mendoza support her family while she continues her battle.

    The mayor said the fundraiser will continue for 3 weeks before they turn over the money to Mendoza.

    “Hindi lahat ng bayani, binabaril sa Luneta. She is a hero,” Lim said.

    Lim is also urging other local government units to express their support for Mendoza. Lim said that if the country is serious in battling corruption, then Mendoza’s case is “a golden opportunity” to show support.


    The brave and courageous

    Heidi Mendoza

    Her face is now splashed on news websites and newspapers, and mentioned in newscasts nationwide. Heidi Mendoza, former auditor of the Commission on Audit (COA), knew her days of living a quiet and anonymous life would come to an end as soon as she testified before the House of Representatives regarding anomalies in the military.

    And so that quiet life did end yesterday as she spilled what she knew of anomalous transactions involving top generals of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

    Such a brave soul, this Heidi Mendoza is.

    But who is she really?

    On "The Rundown" last night on ANC, we were given a glimpse of this courageous woman.

    A policeman's daughter

    Mendoza is the daughter of a police officer, and is a reserve officer herself in the military with a rank of lieutenant colonel.

    She finished her master's degree in national security administration in 2003 at the National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP).

    After graduating from the NDCP, she was asked by former Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo to investigate anomalies in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

    Heidi Mendoza (right) during her graduation at the National Defense College of the Philippines in 2003 with then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (middle).

     She worked with the COA for more than 20 years and became an expert in fraud investigations of government transactions.

    One case she audited was that of Atty. Zacaria A. Candao, a former governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), who was found to have committed malversation of P21 million in government funds.

    According to Mendoza, she was offered money and property just so she will drop the case. Mendoza stood her ground and refused the offer.

    The Supreme Court affirmed the conviction of Candao in 2010.

    Face to face with Garcia

    At the committee hearing at the House of Representatives yesterday (Feb. 1), Mendoza came face to face with former Gen. Carlos Garcia, the former comptroller who reportedly amassed more than P300 million in government funds and who now faces plunder raps.

    Mendoza bravely testified before the committee about what she has discovered in the conduct of her audit, and said, "I appeared before this committee if only to tell our fellow Filipino people and the lowly soldiers that hindi lahat ng Pilipino ay corrupt, hindi lahat ng nagtatrabaho sa gobyerno ay naghahanapbuhay lamang at walang paninindigan."

    She also testified before the Sandiganbayan for a total of 16 times even after she already resigned from the COA, pointing out that Garcia transferred money from the P200 million UN Fund kept in the AFP's LandBank account to a UCPB account in November 28, 2002.

    Mendoza believes the money should have gone to ordinary soldiers.

    "I took the responsibility of conducting an audit so as to give honor to the soldiers who with low salary are risking their lives in the defense of the country," she told the House committee yesterday.

    A poet's soul

    The task of running after corrupt government men is a serious matter and can be a bit frustrating. Lesser mortals would have given up in the face of disheartening trials.

    Tough as she is, though, Mendoza has a soft side and revealed that she turns to poetry to vent out her frustrations and to encourage the common soldier.

    In her poem "Sundalo Una sa Lahat", she called on soldiers to stand tall and stay true to their oath of service in the face of rampant corruption:

    "Sa gitna ng tukso, pangungurakot 
    H'wag kang manghina at manatiling nakatutok sa tunay na layunin"

    And this is exactly what Mendoza is doing right now in full view of her countrymen.

    Bishops support Heidi Mendoza

    Catholic bishops have expressed support to whistleblower Heidi Mendoza, the former state auditor who testified in the House on Tuesday that she was asked by a government agency to go easy on former military comptroller Carlos Garcia, who is accused of plunder.

    Twenty bishops have signed a one-page manifesto backing Mendoza and other whistleblowers in opposing the plea bargain agreement made by the Office of the Ombudsman and Garcia, as well as other instances of corruption, reported the CBCP News in its website.

    The bishops also singled out former Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo, former Special Prosecutor Dennis Villa-Ignacio, and retired Lt. Col. George Rabusa for their “lay leadership” in the fight against corruption.

    “As bishops, we support and encourage such people. We are with Mendoza in speaking out against abuse of office that impoverishes the people and harm the common good,” said the bishops.

    They also cited the media and lawmakers for not giving up on seeking the truth regarding the matter.

    “This is an opportunity for us to get our acts together inspired by courageous men and women who stand up for the truth for the good of our nation,” the bishops said.

    In the manifesto, the bishops asked President Benigno Aquino III and the Sandiganbayan to continue reviewing and investigating the controversial plea bargain agreement.

    “We implore his Excellency, Benigno Aquino III, to critically review the decision of the Ombudsman in the plunder chargers against Garcia. We likewise call on the Sandiganbayan to pursue the case in the interest of transparency and restoration of public trust,” the bishops said.


    Heidi Mendoza: May her tribe increase

    Solita Collas-Monsod in Business World
    The Garcia plea bargain hearings have taken some unexpected but very welcome turns that give the country greater reason to hope: the emergence of a role model in the fight against corruption -- Heidi Mendoza, may her tribe increase; and maybe, just maybe, the much lesser likelihood now of the rank and file following blindly in their officers’ coup attempts -- nothing like realizing that their so-called gods have feet of clay.

    At the same time, it opens the door for a closer scrutiny of what has been going on at the supposedly independent constitutional body called the Commission on Audit which seems to be turning out to be not so independent after all.

    Heidi Mendoza exemplifies what social psychologist Philip Zimbardo (of Stanford Prison Experiment fame) calls heroism. But his hero is not a hero-cum-celebrity, or a hero cum-larger-than-life. Zimbardo defines his hero as a person who performs an ordinary action in an extraordinary manner. And an ordinary action becomes extraordinary when three requisites are met: it is an action in behalf of other people in need, or for a moral cause or principle; it is an action which costs the actor -- there is a sacrifice involved; and finally it is an action which is done without thought of reward.

    And Heidi’s action fulfills all three. From what I read, she could have gotten practically any position she wanted in the COA, if she just played ball, i.e., not tread on any toes, not submit the results of the investigation that Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo had asked her to lead. But she refused to play ball. She turned in an excellent, no-holds-barred report -- because she was thinking of the Filipino people’s interest rather than her own.

    Which led to her having to end her 20-year stay with COA (how could she stay after defying her bosses?). But people of her caliber have no difficulty finding employment, and she apparently was hired by the Asian Development Bank. And here, I have a bone to pick with ADB -- she was a top quality professional at the COA, but she was hired as a mere analyst by them -- what an indictment of their judgment.

    But analyst or not, the ADB pays well, definitely much better than her government salary. And this she voluntarily gave up -- because she was out to fight for principle, out to show that there were people who were willing to do battle against corruption, no matter the cost. Principle, sacrifice. Obviously, there was no thought of reward -- rather, she was facing possible persecution, danger to herself and her family, in fact. But she acted anyway.

    I am sure that well-meaning friends, relatives, co-workers, worried about her, told her to leave well enough alone, or mind her own business. But, as Philip Zimbardo would have said, the answer that a hero would give would be: But the Philippines is my business, the Filipino people are my business.

    I was particularly impressed when she said that we are all responsible, in one way or another, for the corruption that surrounds us in the Philippines. After all, all it takes for evil to triumph is for people of good will to do nothing, or to accept the status quo. In either case, we have slid down the slippery slope to evil, rather than fought it. But heroism, according to Zimbardo, is the antidote of evil. Mendoza has led. One hopes that former UCPB branch manager Edith Bondoc follows.


    Ex-COA auditor begs off from AFP corruption probe

    An emotional Heidi Mendoza on Thursday appealed to the Senate blue ribbon committee to "spare" her from participating in any more inquiries regarding the alleged corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

    "I am appealing to this committee to spare me from causing additional harm to people who I worked with and to people who stood with me all the way," the former government auditor-turned-whistleblower said before the Senate committee hearing ended on Thursday. Mendoza made the appeal after she was reportedly accused of smearing the reputation of the Commission on Audit (COA).

    But she explained that that was never her intention and that she had dedicated a large part of her life to the COA. "I was your auditor and I am an auditor until now," she said. She likewise said that she "salutes" the men and women of COA, who stood for a cause despite "pressures." "I am not destroying the institution. I want reforms within the system. I want a clean government," she said.
    Mendoza, however, said that she has done enough for the investigation and that it is time for her to stop. 

    "Andami ko na po kasing sinakripisyo... pagod na pagod na pagod na po ako [I have sacrificed so much... I am very, very, very tired]. Spare me from further attendance from this hearing," she said. Blue ribbon committee chairman Senator Teofisto Guingona III, for his part, accepted Mendoza's request and said that they will just incorporate what she said during the House hearing. "We will respect your wishes," Guingona said.

    Auditor in Garcia case bares order to drop probe

    Posted at 01/21/2011

    (The Commission on Audit auditor who testified in the plunder case against former military comptroller Major General Carlos Garcia has broken her silence regarding her testimony in the Sandiganbayan, on the heels of the assertion by the special prosecutors of the Office of the Ombudsman that there was not enough evidence to convict Garcia of plunder. Heidi Mendoza, one of the main witnesses in the case, resigned from the Commission on Audit in 2006 after she was instructed to drop her investigation into the alleged anomalies involving AFP funds. Mendoza sat down with ABS-CBN's Ces Oreņa Drilon for an exclusive interview. -- Eds.)  

    MANILA, Philippines - Heidi Mendoza thought she could just go on with her life and forget her court testimony before the Sandiganbayan. After all, she had landed a well-paying job in a regional financial institution. But like so many times in her life, Mendoza could not just sit back and be silent.

    As she did in 2006, Mendoza recently resigned from her job so she could speak her mind. A 20-year veteran of the Commission on Audit (COA), Mendoza said her job to look into the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) fund mess began when Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo made a personal request to then COA Chairman Guillermo Carague for her to lead the team that will assist his office in the investigation of General Garcia. 

    ”The office order was issued sometime October 2004, if I am not mistaken," said Mendoza. "It was a large team. Basically, it started with several representatives from the government audit office and some persons who might personally help me.”

    But as the investigation progressed, Mendoza smelled something amiss. “Later, during the engagement, I just sensed that there were people who were unjust and tried to scale down the number of people in my team, and some had to return to the Commission on Audit for their other responsibilities.”

    When Mendoza testified for a period of 2 years, from 2007 to 2009, she was no longer a government employee. She said she resigned in 2006 "primarily out of my frustration on the lack of support extended to me."

    In addition, she revealed that senior management of COA "blatantly refused" her request that she continue the investigation even if she had more case leads and there were "significant transactions that need[ed] further examination." 

    She also received a phone call from a high ranking government official who instructed her to drop her investigative work.

    All these happened after Marcelo had already resigned as Ombudsman (in 2005) allegedly due to health reasons.

    Suspicious transfer of funds

    In Mendoza’s court testimony, she revealed that she unearthed a suspicious transfer of funds from the AFP’s Land Bank account to a private bank. The payee was the AFP Inter-Agency Trust Fund. The transaction involving P200 million was made on November 28, 2002.

    In the private bank, it was made to appear that the amount was deposited in only one account. However, the account had two passbooks, one which showed a deposit of P100 million, and the other, P50 million.

    Mendoza testified how she discovered the other bank book showing P50 million, but it seemed falsified as the deposit entry was not machine validated, as the usual practice, but was typewritten. There was also no record of the deposit when she had checked the private bank’s branch.

    Also, Mendoza testified how the inter-agency account in the private bank was not booked, thus, the transfer of cash was not reflected in the AFP’s books of accounts.

    Asked if she believed the prosecution had the evidence to convict Garcia, Mendoza said: “Well, I have to qualify this. I’m not a lawyer, I’m a public accountant by profession, but I have a solid 20 years of service from the Commission on Audit. In my experience, I have always been successful in all the cases that I filed in the Sandiganbayan, one of which has already been affirmed in the Supreme Court. I also did a lot of trainings in financial and fraud investigation in the Office of the Ombudsman, including the Office of the Special Prosecutor. So, I think when I say I have gathered the evidence, I am confident that, yes, we have the evidence. But with the appreciation of the evidence, of course, I have to leave it to the respective courts.”

    Return of documents

    Mendoza also disclosed that after Marcelo left government service, she was asked to return case documents to the offices she took them from.

    "And I felt like, you know, it's not that simple," she said. "I led my team, who are all dedicated and committed, I made them believe that we are serious about this task. It is not only a simple data gathering, wherein you just get the report from one table and you get into another file and get some [more]."

    Mendoza said it's difficult for her to hear prosecutors now say they do not have enough evidence to convict Garcia. She insisted that the evidence is already with the government.

    "We used lots and lots of time, private time, thinking of ways and means of how to get a certain file and how to gather the evidence, and so it is painful for me if people will be saying that we don’t have the evidence. If I may qualify: from the point of view of an auditor I believe we have the evidence," she said.

    Lack of public interest in case

    Mendoza also decried how the public, and even the media, lost interest in the Garcia case.

    "This is something that I would try to tell the public. During those times, not one of the media was there, not one of the so-called concerned citizens can be found, not one anti-corruption civil society was there to monitor the case. It was the defendant, the prosecution, the lawyers of the government, my husband and me. So, no media, no civil society."

    In the latter part of the trial, she said she got support from the clergy. "Some representatives from the church went there to support me, and that was one of the most difficult parts of my testimony, because in that particular session, the defense lawyer showed a letter from the Commission on Audit, denying the creation of the [audit probe] team, and it was very frustrating on my part."

    Mendoza said she testified against Garcia "because I am a state auditor, and it is my duty to tell to the public what we have reviewed what we have discovered. It is my responsibility for every Filipino and it is my responsibility to my country."

    Not all state workers are corrupt

    On the assertion by prosecutors that the AFP funds in question were intact, Mendoza said that while prosecutors said the funds have been accounted, "they did not say that no funds are missing."

    This does not mean that graft did not take place, she stressed.

    "They said that funds have been accounted for, it is just due to late recording. Come on! Everyone who practices accounting knows that --and I can testify on this--if there's a late recording, it's basically a condition that bridges opportunity for misappropriation. This is what exactly I’m saying. In court, I’m saying that there were lots of resources available in the hands of a few powerful people in control of the entire cycle of transaction," she explained. 

    "There is so much delay. I’m not talking of 1 month or 6 months, we’re talking here of 2 years. You’re doing a bank reconciliation after 2 years! This means you are also opening the books to misappropriation, it is subject to fraud.“

    Mendoza said she is breaking her silence to disabuse the perception of the public that government is riddled with corrupt workers.

    ”I tried to be honest in living my faith and living up to my responsibilities to my country. Kung sinasabi nilang this is for the government, I leave it to their conscience. As I have said, the evidence is best appreciated by those people who trust you. Unfortunately, I am just an auditor, and I am not one of them who belongs with the prosecution, but I did my best to build up the case. If there are problems with the appreciation [of evidence], I leave it to their conscience," she said.

    "I risked my life, my entire family and my career simply because, I would like to tell my fellow Filipino and to all others here and abroad, hindi lahat ng tao sa gobyerno magnanakaw, hindi lahat ng Pilipino ay natatakot manindigan laban sa korupsyon," she added.

    Auditor in plunder case to launch truth drive (1)




    First of two parts

    A FORMER state auditor who testified against ex-military comptroller Carlos Garcia disclosed over the weekend a “request” from a government office for her to tell the public the evidence in the plunder case against the retired major general is weak. But the request, made about a week after the Sandiganbayan on December 16 allowed Garcia to post bail on the basis of his plea bargain agreement with special prosecutors, has only “strengthened Heidi Mendoza’s resolve to reveal what she says is “the truth behind the Garcia case.”

    “It is plunder; it is more than P50 million. I am standing by my story,” said Mendoza who left her job at a multilateral bank on Friday to embark on a truthtelling” mission. 

    Plunder, the acquisition of ill-gotten wealth of at least P50 million by a public officer, is nonbailable and punishable by life imprisonment.

    Mendoza, who headed a special six-member team the Commission on Audit detailed with the Office of the Ombudsman from 2004 to 2006 to investigate Garcia’s transactions, is the lone prosecution witness who told the court that the former comptroller committed plunder.

    She presented documentary evidence showing that P50 million of the P200 million Garcia had authorized transferred from the Armed Forces’ Land Bank account in Greenhills, San Juan to the United Coconut Planters Bank on Alfaro Street in Makati in November 2002 could no longer traced. 

    The P200-million represented reimbursements from the United Nations for expenses the Armed Forces had advanced for sending peacekeepers overseas. At the time he was charged in court in 2004, Garcia, his wife Clarita and his children maintained a string of bank accounts here and abroad, including at the UCPB.

    Despite the evidence, Special Prosecutor Wendell Sulit said the prosecution accepted Garcia’s plea bargain offer because it has insufficient evidence to convict him of plunder.

    Under the agreement approved by the Ombudsman on February 25, 2010, the cases of plunder and money laundering will be dropped in exchange for Garcia pleading guilty to lesser offenses of direct bribery and facilitating money laundering.

    In the plea bargain agreement, Garcia absolved his wife Clarita and sons Ian Carl, Juan Paulo and Timothy Mark of any involvement in the cases where they were named co-conspirators.



    Auditor in plunder case to launch truth campaign (2)




    EDITOR’S note: In the first part of this series, a former state auditor revealed that there is strong evidence against former military comptroller Carlos Garcia that he committed plunder, and that there was an attempt on the part of the government to make it appear that the case against the disgraced former military officer was weak.


    Carlos Garcia also offered to turn over to the government real estate property, vehicles, shares of stocks and money in the bank valued at P135.433 million.

    Last December 16, Garcia posted P60,000 bail for the two cases he pleaded guilty of and was released from his detention cell in Camp Crame in Quezon City (Metro Manila).

    Since the special audit began, Heidi Mendoza, who headed a special six-member team the Commission on Audit (COA) detailed with the Office of the 
    Ombudsman from 2004 to 2006 to investigate Garcia’s transactions, and her team were up against the odds.

    Mendoza left her job at a multilateral bank on Friday to embark on a “truthtelling” mission. 

    Early on, Mendoza received messages to “go slow” on Garcia. “Dahan-dahan lang [Go slow],” she recalled being told by a government executive.

    On another occasion, people within the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) told her that her investigation was futile because five of her bosses at the COA were purportedly receiving favors from the military.

    And yet another message asked her to give up trying to pin down Garcia supposedly because there would be no documents that would do so.

    But not one to give up, Mendoza and her fellow auditors forged ahead, going over about 90 accounts that involved Garcia. 

    Finally, one day, after spending a day and a half in a dusty “bodega” [storage room] of the AFP, she and her team of auditors finally came upon the P200-million transaction.

    It was like looking for a needle in a haystack. “Ginulo talaga nila ang files [They really messed up the files],” Mendoza said. 

    The auditors had to rifle through every folder and scrutinize each document it contained to find the “smoking gun” evidence against Garcia. 

    Evidence found
    Mendoza’s team turned up a memorandum dated November 21, 2002 in which Garcia authorized the opening of an “AFP Inter-Agency Transfer Fund” account with the UCPB in the amount of the P200 million. 

    The account name itself was already questionable because, Mendoza said, it refers to an entity—the AFP Inter-agency Transfer Fund—that does not exist.

    Through an undated disbursement voucher he and Col. Fernando Zabat signed, a check in the amount of P200 million and dated November 28, 2002 was issued from the AFP’s LandBank account and deposited to the newly opened UCBP account. The account was a savings account...linked to a current account...with an automatic transfer feature.

    Strangely, the check cleared on the same day. The normal clearing period for checks of other banks is three days.

    Stranger still was that the entire P200 million was never deposited to the AFP Inter-Agency Transfer Fund account as the disbursement voucher had intended. 

    Although the endorsement at the back of the check made it appear the entire amount had gone to the AFP account, auditors discovered that only P50 million was placed in Saving Accounts...after the check was encashed. 

    A deposit of P100 million, using the same P200 million check, was instead made to another account: Premium Savings Deposit...also at the UCPB Alfaro branch and whose passbook bore the serial number... The deposit was covered by a savings account deposit slip.

    Then there was a third deposit of P50 million, but this time without a deposit slip and to an account numbered also...but whose passbook carried a different serial number...In short, the P200-million check was split into three deposits, and all three transactions happened in a single day.

    The third passbook with the serial number...for the which the P50 million was purportedly deposited was submitted by the AFP for audit and was supposedly issued also by the UCBP Alfaro branch. 

    But Mendoza and her team would later confirm that the passbook not only bore tampered entries but was “fictitious and could not be identified.” A letter from UCPB Alfaro branch admitted that this particular savings account did not exist in its system. 

    The auditors instead traced the account to the UCPB branch on Tordesillas Street in Makati. “Said acts cannot be consummated without the participation of bank officials,” the state auditors said. 

    Findings backed
    This discovery “raises indelibly the question of where the P50 million supposedly deposited under...with...had gone,” said the Office of the Solictor General in its January 5 motion seeking to intervene in Garcia’s case in a bid to nullify the plea bargaining agreement the retired general struck with the Office of the Special Prosecutor. “It must be borne in mind that the accused played the singular role of authorizing the opening of the AFP Inter-Agency Transfer Fund Account, of being one of the two signatories thereof, of splitting the P200 million to be deposited into different accounts, contrary to the intention of the disbursement voucher.”

    Mendoza’s special audit also found that despite the existence of three passbooks for the AFP Inter-Agency Transfer Fund account at UCPB, only Savings Account No....appeared in the Armed Forces’ books of account and was covered by the annual audit.

    Even then, it found the passbook for this account had been tampered to hide transactions that occurred between May 20 and August 17 in 2004.

    A 2007 report written by VERA Files trustees Luz Rimban and Yvonne Chua on corruption in the Armed Forces said that the COA team detected from a bank statement it obtained from UCPB Alfaro branch that transactions involving P86.4 million in debit and P34.3 million in credit were “deleted” from the passbook the AFP had submitted for audit. The deletions resulted in a P52 million discrepancy in the account balance.

    About P22 million of the “deleted” entries covered payments to 11 suppliers. Another entry purged from the Alfaro passbook pertained to P36 million moved on May 20, 2004 to the AFP’s new account at UCPB-Salcedo and ended up as payments to mostly the same suppliers, some of whom had the same addresses, bank accounts or representatives.

    In 2006, after 22 years as state auditor, Mendoza resigned from her job over COA’s lack of support for the investigation.

    It was COA Chairman Guillermo Carague, on the request of then Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo, who signed in October 2004 an office order detailing Mendoza’s team to the Office of the Ombudsman.

    But COA did not even want as much as an update from her team. Mendoza had asked COA officials in the middle of the audit if they wanted a progress report, and was bluntly told they were not interested.

    By the time she was taking the witness stand in Garcia’s trial, Mendoza was no longer in government but employed by a multilateral agency. To her surprise, Carague, despite having signed the 2004 office order, wrote the court to deny he had authorized the audit. Carague was not summoned to the court, though. 

    But what made Mendoza really restless was when the Sandiganbayan granted Garcia bail last month. And then the “request” came.

    Scanned images
    Mendoza said that when she left government service, she had turned over to the Ombudsman a dozen balikbayan boxes of documents she had gathered on Garcia, including those on the P200-million check. Prosecutors, she said, had no reason to say the evidence against the former comptroller is weak. 

    “What I have are memories and a few scanned images of [Garcia’s transactions],” she said. But all these remain vivid, she added.

    In a separate interview, former Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo, who initiated the cases against Garcia, also debunked the argument of prosecutors that the handwritten statements given by Garcia’s wife, Clarita, to US customs agent Matthew Van Dyke when she and her sons were accosted upon entering the US with $100,000 cannot be used as evidence because aside from being unsworn, as co-accused she cannot testify against herself and her husband under the rule on marital privilege. 

    Mrs. Garcia had identified military contractors as among the sources of her husband’s wealth.

    Marcelo said that the rules of court allow the extrajudicial admission of a conspirator against a co-conspirator. “All you have is to present the person to whom the statement was made to authenticate the statements,” he said. A sworn statement is not even needed as a verbal statement would do, Marcelo added.

    Marcelo also said that he was willing to support Mendoza’s decision to go public. 

    Recalling the risks she had exposed herself, her family and friends to for going up against Garcia, Mendoza, who is 48 and a mother of three, said that the former military comptroller once angrily called her a “liar” after a court hearing and warned her, “There will be a time of reckoning.” 

    But she is not one to just back down. “I can’t accept that six years of my work, of my life, would just be thrown out like that,” she added.

    On December 23, Mendoza turned in her letter of resignation to the bank where she had been assigned anticorruption projects. “It’s difficult to lose a job, but I also can’t hide behind the comforts of my job and allow people to be misled,” she said. 

    And sitting down and doing nothing, Mendoza added, would render her work for good governance meaningless.

    The former government auditor is unsure how the Sandigbayan would eventually decide the Garcia case. But of this she is sure: “I want people to have a collective stand against corruption and show that we are serious in fighting corruption. Even if we lose in the courts, manalo tayo sa kapwa tao [let us win as a people].”

    VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”


    Palace vows support for COA auditor in Garcia case


    A Malacaņang spokesman on Tuesday said the Aquino administration is ready to support former Commission on Audit (COA) employee Heidi Mendoza in her truth-telling mission on the plunder case of former military comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia.

    Communications and Strategic Planning Secretary Ricky Carandang said Mendoza’s testimony only shows there is clear evidence against Garcia and basis for the Sandiganbayan to grant the Solicitor General’s motion to intervene in the case to stop the plea bargain agreement.  

    He told Mendoza: "It will not be a lonely fight.”
    Mendoza led the COA team that looked into military deals and testified on allegedly irregular transactions involving Garcia. She presented documentary evidence showing that P50 million of the P200 million Garcia had authorized transferred from the Armed Forces’ Land Bank account to a private bank account could no longer be traced.

    Mendoza said she was instructed to "go slow" in her investigation on the Garcia case and was even asked to say that the evidence against Garcia was weak.

    Garcia was accused of stealing P300 million from the military's coffers during his time as AFP comptroller. He was recently freed on bail after a plea bargain deal allowed him to plead guilty to lesser charges while returning P135 million in assets to the government.

    President Benigno Aquino and other officials have denounced the move, while the House of Representatives started an inquiry on the plea bargain.

    Prosecutors deny forcing auditor to lie

    By Leila B. Salaverria
    Philippine Daily Inquirer - 01/27/2011

    The prosecution panel trying former military comptroller Carlos Garcia’s plunder case Wednesday said former auditor Heidi Mendoza was aware of the team’s difficulty in getting the evidence to make the case stick.

    The team from the Office of the Prosecutor made the statement in the course of denying a news report that it had invited Mendoza to a Jan. 14 press conference so she could counter the claim of former Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo and former Special Prosecutor Dennis Villa-Ignacio that the case against Garcia was strong.

    The prosecutors said Mendoza was invited to the press conference—where the panel explained why it considered the plunder case weak—only to tell the truth behind the cases against Garcia.

    Mendoza had led the audit of Armed Forces transactions and had testified on purported irregular acts involving P200 million in military funds, which included P50 million that was unaccounted for and in which Garcia was involved.

    She also had testified that she was told to go slow on Garcia.

    Mendoza has recently come out in the media, saying she believed that there was evidence against Garcia, whose plunder case is now the subject of a controversial plea bargain.

    In a recent comment to a motion by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), the prosecution panel said Mendoza’s testimony had been debunked by AFP personnel who denied that there were missing funds in the military.

    Confirm and reveal

    In its statement issued Wednesday, the prosecutors said they had invited Mendoza to the press conference because they wanted her to:

    • Confirm the fact that they had been forced to build a new case against Garcia because of lack of evidence to prove the contents of the information against him.

    • Reveal that she had been unable to complete her report because she did not receive any support from the government and was warned by a government official to go slow on the Garcia case.

    • Disclose that while she was being presented in court by the prosecution, she received a call from a former government official and was asked if there was a need for her to testify in court.

    “Ms Mendoza must have misinterpreted the invitation to her,” the prosecution panel said.

    It added: “She was not being invited to join the press conference to tell lies or to destroy or malign anyone. The invitation was for her to tell the truth and the real story behind the Garcia case with the team with whom she worked for months in trying to prevent the dismissal of the case and/or the acquittal of the accused due to the inherent deficiencies surrounding the fact-finding investigation and drafting of the criminal information.”

    To save the case

    The prosecution panel also said it had presented Mendoza as a witness in Garcia’s case as part of its attempt to save the case, despite the lack of evidence to convict the accused.

    The panel said that at that time, the prosecution was trying to build a case and establish a pattern of actions that would substantiate the allegations in the charge sheet that it could not prove for lack of evidence.

    The panel said Mendoza’s testimony was limited to the financial investigation that her team had conducted on military transactions and not specifically on Garcia.

    It said that she admitted to this during her testimony in the Sandiganbayan, and that she had worked with the prosecutors for several months and knew the difficulties that they faced in getting enough evidence against Garcia.

    The plea bargain with Garcia has been the target of criticism. The OSG has formally asked the Sandiganbayan to allow it to intervene in the plunder case, and sought the nullification of the agreement.

    Congress has also scheduled its own hearings to look into the plea bargain that allowed Garcia to plead guilty to the lesser charges of direct bribery and facilitating money laundering and to post bail.

    Testimony (1)
    ‘No one from COA gave me the support that I needed’

    Philippine Daily Inquirer

    BELOW is the transcript of the cross-examination of prosecution witness Heidi L. Mendoza by Constantino De Jesus during the Dec 3, 2008, hearing of the Sandiganbayan second division:

    Constantino de Jesus: And those were the subject of his report Exhibit “H”?

    Heidi L. Mendoza: Yes, sir.

    De Jesus: So, his report actually was included in Exhibit “K” with respect to those business establishments which were subject of his ocular inspections, is that correct, Madam Witness?

    Mendoza: That’s why, sir, it is included in the analysis. Instead it is not included in verbatim that’s why I said it is not included per se. I mean it was not verbatim in the report.

    De Jesus: So, you included in the analysis portion of Exhibit “K” the report of Jeagle Calibuso marked as Exhibit “H,” is that correct, Madam Witness?

    Mendoza: Yes, sir, specifically when I mentioned that the suppliers do not exist and the suppliers are owned by one and the same person.

    De Jesus: Madam Witness, when did you complete Exhibit “K”?

    Mendoza: Exhibit “K” is a work in progress. When I submitted it I think I submitted it as there was no date in the report because, as I earlier testified, I was very much frustrated with the things happening around. My intention was to resign and to leave the assignment coming, so I completed it before I filed my resignation, sir.

    De Jesus: When did you resign, Madam Witness?

    Mendoza: I resigned from the Commission on Audit effective March 16, 2005 but it was not accepted. I was given another two months but then in my documents supporting my resignation I chose the date March 16 as my final resignation, sir.

    De Jesus: So, you completed Exhibit “K” before you resigned on March 16, 2005, is that correct Madam Witness?

    Mendoza: More or less, sir.

    De Jesus: Do you realize, Madam Witness, that the report of Jeagle Calibuso marked as Exhibit “H” is dated Jan. 9, 2006 long after you completed your report, Exhibit “K”?

    Mendoza: Sir, I realized that it was just the formal submission. As I earlier testified during the direct testimony, I said that verbally he reported to me as I was doing the report and the written report was already submitted, but we have to.

    De Jesus: She should remember that, Your Honors.

    Mendoza: That is one year ago, Your Honors.

    Justice Teresita Diaz-Baldos: What if she cannot remember? Don’t expect her to remember because that is already one year ago.

    De Jesus: We submit, Your Honors. May we be allowed to continue, Your Honors please.

    Baldos: Just a minute, you said that you were frustrated, what was the cause of your frustration?

    Mendoza: Your Honors, I would like to be very honest with this, Your Honors, first.... (At this point, the witness became emotional and began shedding tears.)

    Baldos: Did I strike a sentimental note from your heart?

    Mendoza: Your Honors, I have nothing against the respondent and nothing against the institution. I am just doing my task. I am frustrated because no one from the Commission of Audit gave me the support that I needed.

    When I was doing the audit, it was difficult for me because some of my teammates are actually on the other side and I am the chief. So, what I did I was to watch out. Not all members of the team helped me in the conduct of the audit because I could not trust them. So, I have to watch my back. I have to watch the documents when I do the audit.

    I was so frustrated because I was trying to do some more audit techniques. I was trying to ask permission to go to the United Nations to pursue the different irregularities that we have uncovered but I was not allowed.

    Baldos: When you said some of your team members were on the other side, you mean to say they were in support of the respondent?

    Mendoza: Not the respondent but they were on the other side, Your Honor.

    Baldos: What do you mean by the other side?

    Mendoza: Your Honors, it is difficult to explain before this Honorable Court. I could explain it in your chamber perhaps.

    Prosecutor Capistrano: Off the record, Your Honors.

    Justice Samuel Martires: No, let it be on record. You were designated as part of the team to investigate the financial transactions of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and that designation came from the Chairman of the Commission on Audit?

    Mendoza: Your Honor, at that instance, I have to tell all.

    Martires: No, just answer my question.

    Mendoza: The chairman was not there, your Honor.

    Martires: So, who designated you to become a member of the team?

    Mendoza: Commissioner Dalman, your Honor, who was then the officer in charge but the chairman was not there.

    Martires: And this was by reason of an agreement between the Office of the Ombudsman and the Commission on Audit or the internal arrangement between the Office of the Ombudsman and the Commission on Audit.

    Mendoza: Yes, your Honor.

    Martires: When the report was about to be finished, the Commission on Audit no longer recognized your report?

    Mendoza: Your Honor, I have to be very honest. Before I conduct the audit I was already warned that I have to go slowly that is what is frustrating that I have to explain to this court. I had an instruction and I was told by somebody that there was a call coming from the Palace that I have to go slowly.

    Justice Edilberto Sandoval: Coming from?

    Mendoza: From the Palace that I have to go slowly, your Honor. I could not verify that, your Honor, because it was only told to me.

    Martires: In fact, you were also prohibited by a government official from testifying in this case?

    Mendoza: Yes, your Honor, and second, I was also discouraged by no less than the Assistant Commissioner who told me that there was no voucher signed by the General and so on and so forth and almost all of the officials advised me not to accept this assignment. So, it was against all odds and despite the fact that I accepted this assignment and I am doing the investigation on my own.

    You know I have nothing personal against the respondent or the Armed Forces of the Philippines. I would not waste my time and my pleasure because I am not reimbursed for my gasoline. I am not claiming any pay or honorarium for my appearance.

    Sandoval: Excuse me, you are taking this matter personal?

    Mendoza: Your Honor, yes, I could not get the support of the Commission on Audit.

    Sandoval: But you could have inhibited if you don’t want to take this matter personally.

    Mendoza: Your Honor, I would like to fulfill my civic responsibility as an auditor and I have to confront my cases.

    Sandoval: Make on record that the witness turned emotional and is even shedding tears.

    Baldos: OK, you may continue Atty. De Jesus.

    De Jesus: Considering the emotional condition of the witness, your Honors, although we have a lot of hanging questions, we would like to request that we be allowed to continue this afternoon.

    Sandoval: How many cases do we have this afternoon?

    Executive clerk of court: We have one motion, one pre-trial and three cases for trial, Your Honors.

    Baldos: The Court is so sorry to its question that the witness had to be put on emotional state but we want to be aware of any background on this matter and perhaps the Court will also acknowledge the gallantry of the witness in pursuing her testimony despite all odds. So, when is the next setting?

    De Jesus: Can we ask for another setting within December, Your Honors?

    Mendoza: Your Honors, if I may request, not to be called anymore by January because I have several absences already and by January I have the new contract and it will be difficult for me. I only go by contract.

    Baldos: So, you wouldn’t be available for Jan. 13 and 27 that this case is also set?

    Mendoza: It would be very difficult for me because I saw my contract. I have to specify all the dates that I will be out, Your Honor.

    Testimony (2)
    Garcia inked P200-million transaction

    Philippine Daily Inquirer
    First Posted  01/26/2011

        (Editor’s Note: The following excerpts continue from Tuesday’s transcript of the direct examination of prosecution witness Heidi Mendoza by Prosecutor Joseph Capistrano in Criminal Case No. 28107 against former military comptroller Carlos F. Garcia. The direct examination of Mendoza, a government auditor, was conducted on Dec. 3, 2008.)

    Capistrano: Now, Madam Witness, after testifying on the different transactions which were the result of your audit investigation, and after writing your ... report ... to the Office of the Ombudsman, can you please tell us, what does your group work speak of?

    Mendoza: In summary, the report showed the different irregularities in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, most of which [involve] the practice of conversion ...

    Q: ... What do you mean?

    A: Conversion means the alleged happening of the transaction as appearing in the documents when in truth there was no actual transaction that happened but payment was still [made], sir.

    No signature

    Q: ... [C]an you please tell us based on your audit investigation, what are those particular acts of conversion?

    A: Like, for example, the transaction for the catering where there [was] only one set of suppliers: The official receipts [were] consequently issued, the dates of the check [were] one day, and then there [was] no signature ... on the space provided in the voucher for the acknowledgement of the supplier.

    There were even some transactions where there was no approval of the voucher but there was the issuance of the check. And there were even some certifications that do not agree with the provisions of the contract or do not totally support the sequence of the transaction as reflected in the voucher, sir.


    Q: Aside from catering transactions, what else, if any?

    A: ... [W]e have also observed conversion in ... purchases of office supplies and rental of equipment where ... the alleged supplier does not have any motor vehicle at all, sir.

    Q: So, aside from the purchase of office supplies and rental of vehicles, what else, if any, became the basis of your findings that there was conversion in the AFP [during] Maj. Gen. Carlos F. Garcia’s [term as] comptroller?

    A: The purchase of office supplies, the conduct of training, the meals, sir, the provision of rental services and the most notable, ... the interagency funds amounting to P200 million which will serve as the only voucher signed by ... Garcia, sir.


    Q: Can you please tell us what you mean ... when you made use of the word “notable?”

    A: The P200 million came out of the balances of the United Nations funds. These are actually remittances coming from the United Nations reimbursing the Philippine government, but the reimbursement no longer [passed] the Office of the Treasury as it [was] directly deposited in the accounts maintained by the [AFP]. Unfortunately, the certification being provided to the UN was also issued by the comptroller of the [AFP], sir.


    Q: In simple language, Madam Witness, what is the meaning of that certification?

    A: [It] simply means that the funds have been accounted for and fully utilized. This shows that internal control ... who exercised complete control of the transaction, also issue[d] the certifications, sir.

    Poor internal control

    Q: What is wrong with that ...?

    A: It reflects poor internal control, as I have stated, sir, and then aside from that, only P150 million was documented to have been deposited in the UCPB account.

    Q: I also heard you a while ago [saying] that it is the only transaction where the disbursement voucher was signed by ... Garcia. Did I hear you right?

    A: Yes, sir, it is the only transaction—the transfer of the P200 million funds to the UCPB. The voucher supporting the check was the only voucher signed in his capacity as approving authority. That’s why we called him accountable, sir.

    Q: ... [W]hat is your basis in saying that [it] is the only disbursement voucher which was signed by ... Garcia?

    A: We have reviewed [the] majority of the vouchers and, in fact, before I started my audit, I was already forewarned by no less than the director of the Commission on Audit that there was no voucher signed.

    And so, when I started the audit, I [was] aware that there was no voucher signed in his capacity as approving authority. But when we ... conducted the examination, we found out one big transaction amounting to P200,000,000 which was signed by ... Garcia in his capacity as the comptroller, sir.


    Q: Now, you have stated the different acts of conversion which according to you were the result of your audit investigation. Now, ... as an auditor, Madam Witness, what is the implication of those transactions [on] ... Garcia?

    A: We believe that ... Garcia is accountable, being the comptroller. And in all the transactions that we have carefully reviewed and that we have discussed in this Court, we have observed the different forms of participation of the comptroller in a different transaction.

    There was this transaction on P200,000,000 where he personally signed the voucher ... as approving authority; there were several transactions where he signed the check ... despite the glaring, obvious irregularities in the supporting transaction. One of [these] is the absence of approval in the voucher itself but still the check was issued, and these checks [were] all signed by ... Garcia, sir.

    Q: ... [W]hat else, if any, Madam Witness?

    A: Aside from this, the transaction is initiated with the preparation of the program of expenditure, sir.

    Q: ... [W]hat is that program of expenditure all about?

    A: [It] is the document attached to almost all of the transactions that we have presented in this court, sir.

    Q: What is the use of that program of expenditure?

    A: [It] serves as the basis for the allocation of the resources and the transfer from the budget to the actual services where they should be spent, sir.

    Q: What is [its] implication ... insofar as your findings of conversions are concerned?

    A: [The program of expenditure] initiates the transaction because in effect ... it is the document containing the authority to allocate funds in that specific transaction to transfer the funds in the specific commands of services, sir.

    Spurious documents

    Q: And who is preparing that program of expenditure insofar as your audit investigation is concerned?

    A: There are many officials preparing the program of expenditure depending on the dates, but in the majority of the transactions that we have reviewed and we have presented in the Court, the recommending approval is the deputy chief for comptrollership, sir.

    Q: Recommending that to whom, if you know?

    A: Recommending approval for the head of the [AFP], sir.

    Q: ... [W]hat else, if any, Madam Witness, insofar as the function of the comptroller or ... Garcia vis-ā-vis your findings of conversion?

    A: As we have presented before this court, there are documents that are blatantly ... spurious documents, undated official receipts, unsigned disbursement vouchers, unapproved transactions, certifications that obviously do not refer to the contract, and yet ... a review would show all these irregularities.

    Obviously these were not discovered. These were not noted despite glaring irregularities. Checks were issued and payments were made to the same set of suppliers, issuing sequential ... official receipts, and checks being done on a particular pattern, all done on the same dates, sir.


    Q: ... [W]here did you base those answers of yours today?

    A: I based all my answers on ... the review of the documents that we have done and the report that I have written, sir.

    Former COA chief airs side on ex-auditor's claims

    Former government auditor Heidi Mendoza has expressed dismay over the Commission on Audit's (COA) lack of support in her investigation into anomalous transactions in the military.

    ABS-CBN News sought out former COA Chairman Guillermo Carague for his reaction to the issues raised by Mendoza.

    Carague said he assigned 11 auditors to investigate the case of former military comptroller Carlos Garcia.  Mendoza led the audit team.

    However, Carague denied knowing Mendoza personally.

    “I don’t even remember the name Heidi Mendoza,” he said. “COA has 9,000 personnel.”

    He said then-Ombudsman Simeon called him up asking for help in probing the military.

    “Si Ombudsman Marcelo called me, ‘Puwede mo ba padalan mo ako ng tao,’” he added.

    Mendoza appeared before the Sandiganbayan 16 times to testify on the anomalies she discovered.

    These include the transfer of P200 million to a private bank account from the Armed Forces’ United Coconut Planters Bank account.     The United Nations had given the said money for the expenses of Filipino soldiers involved in UN peacekeeping missions.     Mendoza was surprised during the cross-examination when the lawyer of former military comptroller Carlos Garcia presented a letter supposedly signed by Carague.

    The letter said Carague did not give Mendoza permission to conduct an investigation.

    Carague told ABS-CBN News Mendoza "thought she was doing a COA work" when "she was doing Ombudsman’s work."

    "Maybe she misunderstood it, she probably thought COA pa din ito," he said.

    Carague said he doesn't recall getting her out from the investigation. "I don't recall getting her out. I don’t even know that happened."

    He also said he does not recall signing a letter that the defense used as evidence.

    Malacaņang, meanwhile, left it up to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to study the possibility of placing Mendoza under the witness protection program.


    Prosecutors 'dumped own witness' vs Garcia
    GOTCHA By Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) Updated January 24, 2011 

    No wonder Ombudsman special prosecutors are saying their proof of Gen. Carlos Garcia’s plundering is weak. They themselves weakened it. After their star witness testified in 2007 to Garcia’s embezzlement of P200 million, they produced five others in 2008 to debunk her. They then began bargaining with Garcia to plead guilty to lesser offenses and gain bail. All this, according to sources in the Ombudsman and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).

    The OSG is looking into likely misdeeds in the dumping of Heidi Mendoza, the state auditor who reviewed Garcia’s financial shenanigans. “Nilaglag nila siya,” an OSG source remarked about the prosecutors’ odd handling of their star witness. “First they put her on the Sandiganbayan stand again and again for three months in 2007 to attest to her findings. Then they proceeded to have five accountants of the Armed Forces of the Philippines demolish her revelations. What gives?”

    ”It’s like we wanted to lose,” an Ombudsman insider said. “I hope it wasn’t on purpose.” The STAR obtained transcripts of Mendoza’s testimonies in Sept.-Nov. 2007 and Oct.-Dec. 2008, about six inches thick.

    Mendoza had served the Commission on Audit for two decades, till 2008. In 2004 then-Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo tasked her to subject Garcia’s financial transactions as AFP comptroller to a fine-tooth comb. It was after the general’s sons were caught sneaking $100,000 cash into the US, and his wife narrated to feds how they routinely took multimillion-peso gifts from military suppliers.

    Mendoza found particularly dubious the AFP financial records of 2002. Among her major findings were that Garcia had filched from the United Nations Contingency Fund and the Balikatan Fund.

    The P200-million UN Fund was for the Philippine peacekeeping force to East Timor, while the Balikatan was for US war games with the AFP. A Sandigan source told The STAR that, from friends’ accounts, the soldiers’ UN stipends were delayed. The number of Filipino participants in the Balikatan allegedly was padded from the actual three to a ghost 75.

    After Mendoza’s smoking gun the Ombudsman prosecutors called in five new witnesses from the AFP accounting division. Corroborating each other, the accountants said that while the P200 million puzzlingly was transferred from a state to a private bank, nothing went missing. Specifically the P50 million that Mendoza swore disappeared in 2002 supposedly turned up in subsequent reconciliation of bank records. So they re-entered the figures in the AFP books of accounts. Not one of the witnesses actually saw the money, though, only the bank statements and passbooks.

    All five witnesses reported to then-AFP chief accountant Generoso del Castillo Jr. Three of them said that del Castillo either instructed them to make or approved their corrections of book entries, to reflect the P50 million plus P5 million interest.

    Del Castillo in turn reported directly to Garcia as AFP chief finance officer at the time. News reports in 2004-2005 had linked del Castillo, with AFP budget officer Col. George Rabusa, to Garcia’s fund scams. Both were suspended and underwent investigation.

    An OSG lawyer said the Ombudsman prosecutors should have acted swiftly when the new witnesses belied the star witness. "They should have recalled them for redirect examination, and had them declared as hostile witnesses," the lawyer noted. Another source said the OSG would review the hearing transcripts to determine if the dumping of Mendoza was systematic.

    Mendoza appeared in an ABS-CBN News exclusive last Friday, saying the case against Garcia was strong. This was contrary to what the prosecutors claimed during five days of media blitz the previous week. "I am confident that, yes, we have the evidence," Mendoza said on video. “But (as to) the appreciation of the evidence, of course, I have to leave it to the respective courts.” ...The OSG is intervening to undo Garcia’s hasty plea deal, bail and release, all last Dec. 16, 2010. Solicitor General Jose Anselmo Cadiz finds irregular the plea bargain made after the prosecution finished presenting its evidence. His assistant Amparo Cabotaje-Tang says the Sandigan, by granting P60,000-bail, virtually has approved the guilty pleas to direct bribery and facilitating money laundering. The Ombudsman will drop the P303-million plunder rap. Instead Garcia will return only P135 million, and his wife and three sons will be exonerated..


    God bless Heidi Mendoza




    WHO is Heidi Mendoza? She is a former auditor of the Commission on Audit (COA) and the lone prosecution witness who testified in court that former military comptroller Carlos Garcia committed plunder. You can read all about her in the story written by VERA Files’ Yvonne Chua and Ellen Tordesillas which began to appear in The Manila Times on Monday (yesterday) and concludes today.

    God bless Mendoza, as well as these two women journalists who wrote about her. We need more people like them, people who stand for truth and justice no matter the odds and the dangers they face, which are many.

    Mendoza was one of the six-member COA team detailed with the Ombudsman from 2004 to 2006 to investigate Garcia’s transactions. She stands by her story despite being pressured to say that that the evidence against Garcia was weak. It wasn’t. Before she left her government job to work for a multilateral agency, frustrated as she was over COA’s lack of support for their investigation, she had turned over to the Office of the Ombudsman a dozen balikbayan boxes of documents she had gathered on Garcia.

    I can’t help but seethe as I was reading the VERA Files story. I was thinking: How can it be that easy to steal money from the government? To funnel public funds into one’s own private bank accounts? In Garcia’s case, we’re not just talking about a military general receiving commission to facilitate the procurement of certain equipment but stealing government money outright.

    The government should not only have prosecuted Garcia to the full extent of the law, instead of striking a plea bargain favoring the corrupt general (in fact rewarding him with the spoils from his thievery), but it should also have gone after some of the bank officers of United Coconut Planters Bank and Garcia’s superiors who surely connived with him to transfer public funds into his own private bank accounts.

    There is just no way the money could have been stolen without the collusion of other people.

    Mendoza was able to pin down Garcia on one particular disbursement—the P200-million reimbursements from the United Nations for the expenses the Armed Forces of the Philippines had advanced for sending our own peacekeeping contingent overseas.

    According to VERA Files and Mendoza’s account, the P200-million check was split into three deposits, in three private bank accounts in UCPB branches in Makati and all three transactions happened in a single day. The check cleared on the same day when the normal clearing period for checks is three days.

    Considering that Mendoza and her team spent a long time digging through piles and piles of documents just to uncover this single transaction and that they were able to do so despite being impeded, it is highly probable that Garcia and his cohorts were involved in more anomalous acts, only that these were covered up well, or there was no paper trail at all in the others. Remember, Garcia lost no time accepting the plea bargain agreement offered to him, and why not? It was a mere slap on the wrist considering that he could have easily been convicted for plunder. A corrupt comptroller like him is not likely to do his thieving just once. The fact that Garcia and his family maintained a string of bank accounts and they routinely brought money into US territory before they were caught red-handed by US officials means they have set up an illegal operation already.

    Mendoza, according to the story, was told several times to take it easy on their investigation by a certain government executive. “On another occasion, people within the Armed Forces told her that her investigation was futile, because five of her bosses at COA were purportedly receiving favors from the military. And yet another message asked her to give up trying to pin down Garcia, supposedly because there would be no documents that would do so.”

    Mendoza’s story demonstrates everything wrong with the previous administration. Military officials were able to abuse their powers, do corrupt acts and cover these up with impunity because the GMA administration largely ignored their corruption, given that Arroyo needed her generals to prop up her unpopular and largely perceived as illegitimate administration.

    Even her superiors at COA failed Mendoza. It was then COA Chairman Guillermo Carague who assigned Mendoza’s team to the Ombudsman, but Carague later denied that he ordered an audit of Garcia. When Mendoza asked COA officials if they wanted a progress report on the Garcia investigation, she was told they were not interested. These actions fuel the rumors of collusion between certain auditors and corrupt government officials.

    In contrast, Mendoza, even if she was no longer a COA auditor by the time she took the witness stand, chose to see her investigation through. She has never wavered on her testimony, this courageous mother of three kids, who has everything to lose but her integrity and honor. In one hearing, Garcia called her a liar and told her there will be a day reckoning.

    “I want people to have a collective stand against corruption and show that we are serious in fighting corruption. Even if we lose in the courts, manalo tayo sa kapwa tao.”

    This is the same righteous anger that reminds me of Marlene Esperat, another courageous woman, who told the truth about the corrupt deals in the Department of Agriculture, including the P728-million fertilizer scam and who ultimately was murdered for it.

    I hope the same fate doesn’t happen to Heidi. And I am asking the religious groups who rallied around and protected Jun Lozada to do the same for Heidi Mendoza, to support her and help protect her, as we all should.



    Heidi Mendoza, an unlikely heroine

    When I first met Heidi Mendoza, she impressed me as an ebullient and high-spirited person. I have gotten to know Heidi because she is a member of the board of advisers of EHEM, an anti-corruption program based in the Ateneo School of Government where I am Dean. She has also worked in the past as a resource person for the Affiliated Network on Social Accountability—East Asia Pacific which is also based in AsoG. I was impressed with the excellence and professionalism that characterized her work as a public accountant and an advocate of good governance. But what I really like about Heidi is her sense of humor and readiness to laugh, including at herself. Until lately, she has never betrayed any hint of the emotional turmoil within her. But behind this woman is an indomitable and resolute spirit that would shame even the strongest and most courageous amongst the men in this “macho” society of ours.

    Heidi Mendoza had a promising career as a public accountant. An expert in the field of audit, investigation, and fraud examination, she was employed by the Commission on Audit, holding responsible positions in the Commission for the better part of her professional career. Everything was going well for Heidi when in September 2004 she was requested by then Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo to lead a group tasked to conduct fraud investigation involving the Armed Forces of the Philippines fund mess, particularly in the office of then AFP Comptroller, General Carlos Garcia. Despite the physical and emotional strain not to a small measure caused by uncooperative and, at times, hostile government officials, she continued with the investigation. Along the way, her team unearthed suspicious bank transactions and documents that could only mean anomalous transfers of AFP funds. Among others, Heidi had proof of anomalies related to managing funds from the United Nations intended to support our soldiers in peace-keeping missions abroad. When asked in an interview by ABS-CBN’s Ces Oreņa-Drilon whether she has the smoking gun against Garcia, she quipped that while she is not a lawyer, her solid 20 years experience from the COA, including her trainings in financial and fraud investigation, gives her the confidence in the evidence they have gathered.

    Heidi detailed these anomalous transactions in her testimony as the main state witness for the plunder case against General Garcia in the Sandiganbayan where she testified from 2007 to 2009. She also provided the documentation to support her testimony. For two long years, Heidi silently and without fanfare attended and testified in the hearings (16 of them). Most of the time, only her husband was there to give her moral support. By that time, the public and most of media had lost interest in the case. Unlike in the case of other whistleblowers who exposed anomalies committed by high profile personalities, there were no civil society to drum up interest, no media to record, and no security except for some representatives from the church when ironically, a case of this magnitude would have triggered a media-frenzy and stirred the interest of even the most apathetic. After all, rumors of massive corruption in the AFP have long been the fodder of news reports and subject of investigations for as long as I can remember. And more so because, we are all witness to the hapless conditions of our soldiers who go to battle without decent equipment.

    Heidi is one who would rather shy away from the limelight, narrate her piece of the story before the Sandiganbayan and be done over with it. She wanted to return to her disrupted normal life as soon as possible. But it was not to be. When the government prosecutors defended a plea bargain that allowed a former military comptroller accused of plunder to go free on bail, saying the case against retired Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia was “deficient” from the start, she decided last week to break her silence and come out in the open if only to dispel the misperception that all government workers are corrupt. To be able to do this, she decided to resign from a well-paying and professionally respected position in the Asian Development Bank where she had gone to work after resigning from the Commission on Audit. Ironically, her work in the ADB was to promote and work for good governance in the Philippines. When I asked her why she was resigning from her ADB post, Heidi responded with a rhetorical question—“How could I work on good governance anywhere and keep silent about the Garcia case?”

    Heidi Mendoza is a woman on a mission. But behind the courage and the commitment, the strains to herself and her family (who are all very proud of her) are taking a toll. Like most witnesses in similar cases, there is always fear, apart from the very real and distinct physical risk they face every day that they would succumb to pressure and their efforts be rendered futile without significant support, whether moral, spiritual or financial. In many instances, whistleblowers, who may be key to solving a case, buckle under the weight of and succumb to intense pressure that goes with the expose or in this case, testifying against powerful individuals. But it is when an individual would unflinchingly risk everything for a noble cause despite tremendous adversities that he or she may be regarded as a hero or heroine. And to me, Heidi is one such person. As she said in the ABS-CBN interview, “I risked my life, my entire family and my career simply because, I would like to tell my fellow Filipino and to all others here and abroad, hindi lahat ng tao sa gobyerno magnanakaw, hindi lahat ng Pilipino ay natatakot manindigan laban sa korupsyon (Translated loosely: Not all government employees are thieves, not all Filipinos are afraid to speak out against corruption).

    Indeed, corruption is the blight of our country. It erodes the moral fabric of the society and aggravates the poverty of our people. How ironic and tragic it is that, when we finally have a President committed to the straight and narrow path of good governance, we end up seemingly hopeless against something like the Garcia case. I cannot believe that President Benigno Aquino III cannot do something about this, including finding ways to supporting our unlikely hero to make sure that she is not left alone to the mercies of those who are angered by her testimony. I cannot also believe that we, ordinary citizens, are all that powerless as well before evil and injustice. After all, Heidi Mendoza has shown the difference courage and commitment make and it is a lot.



    Heidi Mendoza against all odds 

    REMINISCENT OF the spirit of Edsa I, Heidi Mendoza, a government auditor, showed the world the true meaning of honor and devotion to duty above self when she stood firm against the forces of evil and denounced before media the military corruption under the Arroyo administration.

    Carlos F. Garcia, a retired general and former comptroller of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, was reportedly found by Mendoza to have stolen P303 million from government coffers, but high government officials, including “somebody from the Palace,” warned her “to go slow on General Garcia.” Lesser mortals would have scampered to the niches of safety and obscurity, but not Mendoza. Alone and unafraid, she stood her ground and went public instead.

    We, the members of the Philippine Association of Retired Persons (PARP), which has fought and are still fighting tooth and nail against corruption in the country’s pension system are proud of Ms Mendoza, and we salute her for her bravery and civic-mindedness in the face of overwhelming odds. If there were more Filipinos like her, this country would be less corrupt, and the people less mahirap (poor), as President Aquino dreams of.

    As an accountant-auditor, I commend Mendoza’s strict adherence to the principles which accountants are mandated to live by, unlike some people in the profession who wantonly ignore the same principles whenever they find it convenient to do so.

    founding chair and past president,
    Philippine Association of Retired Persons

    Support for ex-auditor Heidi Mendoza snowballs

    Hailed for raising Filipinos a notch higher

    By Gil C. Cabacungan Jr., Jocelyn R. Uy, Marlon Ramos
    Philippine Daily Inquirer, 02/02/2011

    Like a bright lamp, former state auditor Heidi Mendoza Tuesday shone light on a trail of corruption in the military her superiors and the military brass would rather leave in the dark, drawing praise from a public hungry for honest people in government.

    Support for Mendoza came pouring in from netizens, the clergy, legislators, the President and the justice secretary, among other people.

    “You have raised us a notch higher as Filipinos,” said Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teodoro Casiņo, summing up the public’s feeling after Mendoza disclosed her fears for her life and the security of her children with her testimony.

    “I would like to assure her that as far as security is concerned, I think that from all the reactions I have been getting from my cell phone to my computer, it is the Filipino people who will protect you in the circumstance that you find yourself in,” said Casiņo at the hearing of the justice committee in the House of Representatives.

    He added that Congress would support and protect Mendoza.

    “Go Heidi,” cheered Rock Ed founder and TV host Gang Badoy on her Twitter account, gangbadoy. “When I grow up, I don’t think I can be like Heidi Mendoza, she’s special. But I want to be CAPABLE of protecting people like Heidi Mendoza,” she later tweeted.
    Trending topic

    At around 5:24 p.m. Tuesday, Mendoza appeared among the trending topics of the social networking site Twitter worldwide.

    Twitter’s trending topics, preceded by a hashtag(#,) reflect the most-talked about real-time subjects on the site.

    Mendoza emerged at the top spot of the trending topics on the popular search engine Yahoo Philippines after testifying at the hearing on how former military comptroller Carlos Garcia skimmed off public funds.

    Mendoza led a team from the Commission on Audit (COA) that looked into military deals and testified on allegedly suspicious transactions involving Garcia and his family, who were charged with a P303-million plunder case.

    Plea bargain

    The case in the Sandiganbayan is now the subject of a pending plea bargain agreement, which allowed Garcia to post bail and walk out of jail.

    Mendoza earlier said she believed there was strong evidence against Garcia, contrary to pronouncements of government prosecutors, who had said that there was insufficient proof to nail him down.

    Manifesto of support

    In a manifesto of support, 20 Catholic bishops praised Mendoza for risking her life and the security of her family “to unmask the arrogance” of abusive officials.

    The bishops also mentioned George Rabusa, a former military budget officer who disclosed the military tradition of giving tens of millions of pesos drawn from a slush fund to Armed Forces chiefs of staff and other top military officials.

    The prelates said the emergence of inspired witnesses like Mendoza and Rabusa against crooked government officials was a concrete expression of “lay leadership,” which the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) stressed in a pastoral letter two years ago.

    The pastoral letter titled “Year of the Two Hearts for Peace building and Lay Participation in Social Change,” encouraged the lay faithful to be at the forefront of moral renewal for a genuine and lasting change in Philippine society.

    Common good

    The bishops echoed a pastoral letter calling on the lay people involved in politics to reject corruption and unite in the task of “evangelizing politics” for effective governance and the pursuit of the common good.

    “As bishops, we support and encourage such people. We are with Heidi Mendoza in speaking out against the abuse of office that impoverishes the people and harm the common good,” they stated.

    Fighting giants

    At Tuesday’s forum hosted by the Catholic Media Network, Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz said the two witnesses against corrupt military officials must not only be supported by bishops but also by ordinary Filipinos.

    “What they are doing is not easy... especially when you fight the giants,” said Cruz, who himself stood as witness in a Senate probe of “jueteng,” an illegal numbers game.

    In the manifesto, the bishops called on the Sandiganbayan to pursue the case in the interest of transparency and restoration of public trust.

    Palace support

    Mendoza has the Aquino administration supporting her as far as her security requirements are concerned, Malacaņang said on Tuesday.

    Mr. Aquino’s spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said that the President found Mendoza a credible witness and that the administration was moving to protect her from those who would do her harm.

    “Before she came to the House hearing… we made sure that she would be protected by the government. We realize the importance of her testimony,” Lacierda said at news briefing in Malacaņang.

    Lacierda said the President watched the television coverage of the proceedings in the House.

    “We’ve listened to her testimony. Based on the court records, we believe that she is a very credible witness who could shed light on the anomalies that happened in the military during the comptrollership of [Major] General Garcia,” Lacierda said.

    Witness protection program

    The Department of Justice (DoJ) has temporarily placed Mendoza under its Witness Protection Program (WPP), Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Tuesday.

    Anticipating threats to her security following her decision to appear at the hearing, Mendoza went to the DoJ office in Manila on Monday to seek protection, De Lima said.

    “Because of these proceedings… she felt that she needed security so we provided her security (detail) while we are evaluating her full coverage under the WPP,” De Lima said in a news briefing.

    “I don’t know the exact threats, but you can always assume that because the people implicated here are powerful people, you cannot downplay any security threat. You cannot be too complacent,” she added.

    Since Mendoza did not cite specific threats, De Lima said the DoJ provided “preemptive” security arrangement for her.

    In addition to protection, the justice secretary said the WPP could grant financial assistance to Mendoza and Rabusa.


    De Lima praised Mendoza for coming out in the open to narrate what she knew about the controversial plea bargain reached by Garcia and the Ombudsman.

    “She is brave and just like Rabusa, she is credible,” the justice secretary said. “What could be her agenda as a former COA auditor? She now runs the risk of being pilloried and ostracized by her former co-workers at the COA.”

    De Lima said the revelations made by Mendoza and Rabusa should prompt the Sandiganbayan to closely review Garcia’s plea bargain.

    Honest toil

    In their manifesto, the bishops reminded parents to serve as good examples to their children and to promote the “virtue of honest toil,” noting that Garcia’s case was a reflection of the deteriorating moral values among Filipino families.

    “We call on the children to ask their parents about their sources of income... we remind lawyers, law enforcers and law schools to remember their public oath of honor and duty to uphold democracy.

    “This is an opportunity for us to get our act together inspired by courageous men and women who stand up for the truth for the good of our nation,” the bishops said.

    Among those who signed the manifesto were Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Jaro Auxiliary Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, Kidapawan Bishop Romulo de la Cruz, Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, Legazpi Bishop Joel Baylon, Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iņiguez, Novaliches Bishop Antonio Tobias and Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes.

    Heidi Mendoza’s dream now nightmare for generals

    By Tarra Quismundo
    Philippine Daily Inquirer - 02/06/2011

    In a dream six years ago, a black-clothed Virgin Mary gave Heidi Mendoza a pair of earrings at a procession. She must have been given a heavy responsibility, Mendoza thought, and so she carried on with her career as a state auditor.

    The same kind of vision occurred in waking life for Mendoza this month, at a procession of Our Lady of Candelaria on the day she had asked God for a sign—which for her would be confirmation that what she was doing was right.

    “I was looking at the Virgin of Candelaria and it was in dark violet [vestments]. In my dream, I saw it as black. I was standing at the end of the procession and I told myself, this is exactly how I saw it in my dream,” Mendoza said.

    “I had this dream six years ago. Then the mission is confirmed. There is no turning back. Now, it is clear that it is a mission,” said Mendoza in remarks following a Mass for good governance at the La Salle Greenhills chapel on Friday.

    Mendoza, the 48-year-old former state auditor who revealed the extent of the military corruption that she had unearthed when she audited the Armed Forces books, believes it was the signs from heaven that led her to her present situation—the new face of the brave Filipino willing to risk life and career for the truth.

    “Kung mangarap ka at magkatotoo, lagot ka (If you wish for something in your dreams and you get it, watch out),” she said to laughter from the audience.

    Mendoza shared her experiences in government during her 40-minute talk following the Mass that was organized by the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP).

    Wearing a blue shirt and black trousers, Mendoza appeared at ease and relaxed in the company of nuns and civil society people.

    Her mood couldn’t have been more different from that of the tense and agonized witness who appeared before the congressional inquiries into the controversial plea bargain agreement between state prosecutors and plunder suspect, former military comptroller Carlos Garcia.

    Miracles in her life

    “I want to confirm the miracles in my life. Before I decided to come out, I said I will be protected by St. Joseph. When I saw the statue of St. Joseph here today, I felt that he was really taking care of me,” said Mendoza.

    Once when she found her faith being tested, Mendoza said God answered her through text messages.

    While on the witness stand at the Sandiganbayan trial of Garcia sometime in 2007, Mendoza was surprised when the defense panel presented a letter from the Commission on Audit denying that she had ever conducted an audit on the dismissed general who is charged with amassing P303 million in unexplained wealth.

    At one point during the hearing, she said Garcia approached her and said: “You are a liar. There will be a day of reckoning for you.”

    “I was shaken. I felt maybe I was just too cocky. During that hearing, there were no other people [on our side], no civil society, no media, just me and my husband. The agency I came from denied me,” she said.

    She said she prayed and asked: “God, I want to see you. I want a God with a face that I can see. I want him to be coming down from heaven with a sword and slashing my enemy. I was that angry ... I felt so alone ... I was crying all over.”

    Answered prayers

    As soon as she left the courthouse, she said she started receiving text messages from various bishops expressing support for her.

    “I said to myself, well, the Lord has become high-tech. He did not show himself, but he already knows how to text!” said Mendoza.

    It has always been her dream to see a clean government, said Mendoza. Her father, a policeman, had raised her to do right by her fellowmen and to never take what is not hers, she said.

    “He taught us never to steal and to never feed our children with what was stolen,” said the mother of three.

    She hopes for other Filipinos to be more aware about corruption, to “make a conscientious stand” against the ills in government and to be “very strong in telling the truth.”

    In a statement of support for Mendoza, the AMRSP hailed her “[embodying] the spirit of a real Filipino woman.”

    “We thank God for the gift of this woman who, without hesitation, entered the male-dominated Games of the Generals, not to be part of their corrupt exercise but to become a hope for those who dwell in darkness for so long,” the AMRSP said.

    Even as she faces security risks, Mendoza manages to make light of it all.

    “I told the Lord: ‘You don’t need me in heaven. I cannot sing for you, I cannot stay in heaven kneeling in prayer because I can’t stay still. But I have one wish: that there will be no bloodshed.’

    ‘I have lived a full life. If you take me, it’s OK. But as I said, I will be of no use for you in heaven.’”



    Heidi Mendoza tells the stories behind the numbers

    Heidi Mendoza ( Photo)Former Commission on Audit (COA) auditor Heidi Mendoza was taught a lesson in honesty as early as when she was a kid in elementary school growing up in her hometown of Tayabas, Quezon.

    “As kids, our parents didn’t call us one by one to give us our ‘baon,’ for school,” she says.  “What they did was to leave a can full of coins on the table, and my siblings and I would get from that can our ‘baon.’  I always got just enough.  I never got more than what I needed.”

    This was what she shared with the attendees at the talk organized by the Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accounts (PICPA) held last February 11 at the PICPA office in Mandaluyong City where she was the guest of honor. 

    Looking back though, she jokes,”Maybe that’s because I was a kid then.  Now that I’m older it might be a different case.”

    The reluctant accountant

    How Mendoza’s life drastically differs from then and now is one for the books.

    Her first choice of profession was actually to be a doctor.  But born in humble means—her father was then a retired policeman and her mother a  housewife—the family could not afford to send her to Manila to study medicine.  They didn’t have relatives in the city where she could stay, and they didn’t have money to pay for a boarding house or dormitory.  So they agreed that she would stay in Quezon to study at the Sacred Heart College in Lucena, where she says there were only three options.

    “I couldn’t study nursing because I do not know how to take care of people; and I could not study to be a social worker because I’m only social but not a worker,” she says in jest, much to the delight of the attendees.  “The last option was accounting, and that’s what I took up.”

    But then Heidi was never fully connected with the course.  In fact she would often miss her classes and typically get a grade of 78 or 79.  When she was set to take the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Board Exams in 1983, many people including her mother didn’t think that she would pass because not only did she get low grades, but also because her father died at the time she was reviewing for the exams.  Concerned, her mother advised her to postpone taking the exam, but she pushed through.

    “With the help of God, I passed,” she says with a smile.

    Job offer

    While waiting for the results of the board exam, Heidi landed two job opportunities:  one at the United Coconut Planters’ Bank (UCPB) and the other at COA.

    “I think my life won’t probably be like this had I taken the job at UCPB,” she kids.

    At COA, she recalls how she coped with a monthly salary of 700 pesos.  She was staying with a colleague in Fairview and had to travel all the way to Kalaw, Manila.  All she earned was spent mostly on transportation, and she barely had enough left for food.  For the rent, her colleague would often shoulder it or she would wait for her mom to send money.

    “The most important thing I want to share is that even though that happened, I never felt there was something lacking in my life,” she says almost tearfully.

    How it all started

    It was in September 2004 when she was requested by then Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo to lead a group assigned to conduct fraud investigation involving the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) fund, particularly in the office of then AFP Comptroller General Carlos Garcia.

    “Mr. Marcelo told me that we will make history,” she recalls.  “I  told him I don’t know how to make history.  For me it was enough that I was able to be of assistance to someone who honestly served the government.”

    The auditing process in connection to the investigation of the AFP fund was so difficult for Heidi that she began to lose weight drastically.

    “Everyone else was gaining weight, and I was losing weight,” she jokes.

    Even when she was met with hostility by government officials, she persevered and continued with the investigation where she and her team discovered suspicious bank transactions and documents that could only mean anomalous transfers of AFP funds.

    “I would say that accounting and auditing is not about just skills in numbers because now with calculators and computers, computing is easy.  But the missing link there is how you would piece together the numbers which come from many different sources?  I think the beauty of accounting and auditing is finding out how you would come up with a story behind the numbers, how they are put together and what are they trying to communicate,” she says.

    From 2007 to 2009, Mendoza detailed inconsistent transactions in her testimony as the main state witness for the plunder case against Gen. Garcia in the Sandiganbayan, providing the documentation to support her testimony.

    Mendoza atttended 16 hearings, holding on to the fact that “I am not accountable to my colleagues, I am not accountable to the succeeding President, I am accountable to the Filipino people.”

    Almost gave up

    Mendoza resigned from her job at COA after the hearings and was looking forward to start a new life.

    “On my last day, I kept crying from my office to the hallway and my staff kept following me like the apostles followed Jesus.  At that time, I believed I had finished my public service so I resigned,” she recalls.

    She went to Indonesia where at a conference she saw a digital film about corruption, which reminded her of the corruption cases in the Philippines.

    “That’s when I knew I had to go back,” she asserts.

    She did not immediately go back to COA, and instead opted to work at the European Commission and then started her consultancy.

    In December 2010, Garcia was released on bail as prosecutors told the Sandiganbayan that the former AFP Comptroller “substantially complied” with the requirements set by the anti-graft court for the approval of the plea bargain.

    This alarmed Mendoza, and she found herself in the middle of a very difficult situation—whether she would break her silence or not—because she was very concerned for the welfare of her family as she asks,”Where in the world would you find a mother, no matter how negligent she may be, would risk putting the lives of her kids in danger?”

    Breaking her silence

    It was a difficult choice but one Mendoza knew she had to make.  “”I am giving lectures on the detection of fraud, I am giving lectures on citizens’ participation in good governance, I am giving lectures on citizens’ participation in fighting corruption,” she stresses.

    So in January this year, she came out in the open and on February 1, she disclosed before the House of Representatives that she was able to come up with a money trail of AFP funds that were misused, converted or diverted from their intended purposes.

    Overwhelming support

    Mendoza instantly became frontpage news and even became a trending topic on Twitter.  There was overwhelming support for her everywhere in the country.

    “You have raised us a notch higher as Filipinos,” Bayan Muna party list Rep. Teodoro Casiņo tells her.  While the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) released a pastoral letter stating,”As bishops, we support and encourage such people.  We are with Heidi Mendoza in speaking out against the abuse of office that impoverishes the people and harm the common good.”

    Luz D. Valenzuela-Garcia, who works for a school as an auditor, tells the Asian Journal that, “As auditors, we are always looking for the truth as far as financial reporting is concerned.  And what she did is really something inspiring to be more truthful in my undertaking.  That has been my principle to tell the truth and to assist the government in the proper implementation of BIR ruling and the proper collection of taxes.  I believe that CPAs like myself will be strong-willed in telling the truth, and I would like to profess my support for her.”

    Fely Abas, who works for a private company now, says that she also had a chance to do what Mendoza did, having worked for the government also, but she said she got fed up and gave up.

    “It is a challenging profession, and I admire her for her bravery and courage,” she says.

    Mendoza remains self-effacing, asserting,”I merely wanted to tell the truth to the ordinary people.  I did not want to go to the Senate, I did not want to go to the Congress.  But then I realized that I have already started it, it would be a waste if I don’t finish it.”

    Facing criticisms

    It was not all good words for Mendoza.  Many of her detractors throw criticism at her direction, making her appear as the one who is telling lies.

    “Everyone was saying they don’t know me, they never met me.  It was like I was the Invisible Woman,” she jokes.

    She also got ridiculed for the way she looks.  “They say I look poor,  they berate the color of my hair and my face.  For me though I don’t mind the sneers.  I have been offered bribes many times and I have always refused then.  Had I taken those bribes, I may not look the way I look now and may have gotten Belo’s services, but OK lang po ‘yun basta walang nagbuwis ng pera ng bayan para sa akin,” she declares.

    She also says she has made a lot of sacrifices, citing that she can’t go out now without bodyguards by her side.

    “I used to be able to go outside to walk my dog; I used to be able to walk and go to church; now I can’t do those things,” she remarks.

    No regrets

    Despite the sacrifices, Mendoza  maintains she doesn’t regret anything.

    “The call of my conscience was too strong to ignore.  We now have a present administration who is banking on reforms.  So when all the cases are dismissed, all the criminals are set free, what will be left in the minds of the Filipino people?  We now have so much hopelessness in our hearts.  Everyone’s mind is settled that everyone in the government is corrupt, that every Filipino worker can be bought and that there is no honor in being an accountant and that there is no honor in being an auditor.  I told myself, I can spread the word that not everyone in the government is corrupt and that there is dignity in being an accountant and an auditor,” she states.

    Honor in a name

    While Mendoza occasionally inserts a joke when she was speaking before fellow accountants and auditors, she almost broke down as she recalled the words of her father, the first one who encouraged her to pursue the accounting profession in the first place.

    With heavy security guarding her at all times, Mendoza tries to convince herself that she has nothing to be afraid of.

    “Why should I be afraid?  I did not do anything wrong.  I was raised by my father to protect our name.  And when he died, I always did everything to maintain the honor to our name despite the fact that we did not possess riches.  It was our honorable name that is our wealth,” she says.

    RP Graft Buster Eyes Return to Government; Intimates Fear for Her Life

    Mar 03, 2011
    By Bony Bengwayan 
     "My life could flicker.”

    The curt statement sums in a nutshell the perilous journey being traversed by Heidi Mendoza, the intrepid Philippine state auditor instrumental in helping unlock a Pandora’s Box of corrupt practices in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

    Talking with reporters yesterday after attending the Philippine Senate Blue Ribbon Committee tasked to investigate the alleged corruption, Mendoza also revealed her desire to return to government service.

    She resigned her auditor post to help the senate shed light over her team’s audit findings. She tendered her resignation that culminated 20 years career of sterling service.

    However, Mendoza has yet to ascertain what branch in the Philippine government she will stay with or whether she will return to her old post at the Commission on Audit.

    Several agencies in the government have expressed desire to re-install Mendoza within their services.

    Mendoza’s intention satisfies President Benigno Aquino’s wish that she goes back to the bureaucracy when he previously offered her a job related to his administration’s war against corruption.

    Her consummate concern for safety of her family relates to the death threats received since she started testifying in committee hearings on the corruption case that involved former top military brass. Yet, she proffered, “willing to make a sacrifice.”

    Presently, she and her family are protected by the Presidential Security Group.

    Mendoza cited former Armed Forces of the Philippines colonel Jorge Rabusa for his courageous stand in unraveling the intricate web of anomalous transactions that sucked out millions of public funds supposed to be utilized for military purposes but were diverted instead for the interest of a few.



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