JV indicted for graft over 2008 gun deal
THE OFFICE of the Ombudsman has indicted for graft a fourth incumbent senator, JV Ejercito, this time for allegedly using calamity funds to buy 20 high-powered firearms in 2008 when he was still the mayor of San Juan City.
Ejercito, elected to the Senate in 2013 to a six-year term until 2019, will be charged with violation of Republic Act No. 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and technical malversation.
Interviewed by the media, Ejercito denied the accusation against him and said his political enemies might be behind the filing of the case.
In a statement on Tuesday, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales said there was a “hasty procurement of specific high-powered firearms of a particular brand (without) competitive bidding and without any postqualification.”
She said the bid documents bore dates earlier than the publication of the invitation to bid, “showing that an unwarranted benefit, advantage and preference” was given to the firearms supplier.
Morales also indicted for technical malversation former San Juan Vice Mayor Leonardo Celles and 13 councilors—Andoni Carballo, Vincent Pacheco, Angelino Mendoza, Dante Santiago, Rolando Bernardo, Grace Pardines, Domingo Sese, Francis Peralta, Edgardo Soriano, Jannah Ejercito-Surla, Franciso Zamora, Ramon Nakpil and Joseph Christopher Torralba.
They were accused of giving Ejercito the authority to purchase the firearms.
Morales also indicted for graft five city officials who sat on the bids and awards committee—city administrator Ranulfo Dacalos, treasurer Rosalinda Marasigan, attorney Romualdo delos Santos, budget officer Lorenza Ching and engineer Danilo Mercardo.
She ordered suspended without pay for six months Dacalos, Marasigan, Delos Santos,
Mercardo and city accountant Alicia Barazon for misconduct.
Senators Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada—Ejercito’s half-brother—have been in detention since last year after the Ombudsman filed plunder and graft cases against them for the alleged anomalous use of their pork barrel funds. Senator Juan Ponce Enrile who also faced similar cases has been granted bail.
Their terms of office will end next year.
The Ombudsman said that in February 2008, Ejercito requested the San Juan city council for authority to use the city’s calamity funds to buy high-powered firearms for the San Juan police department as “an investment for disaster preparedness.”
The council granted that authority under a city ordinance.
Within the same year, the San Juan city government purchased three units of model K2 5.56-mm-cal. submachine guns and 17 units of Daewoo model K1 5.56-mm-cal. submachine guns worth P2.1 million.
No calamity declaration
The Ombudsman ruled that the purchase should not have been allowed since Circular No. 2003-1 passed by the budget and interior departments did not include high-powered firearms among the items contemplated for disaster relief and mitigation.
“More importantly, there was no declaration placing San Juan under a state of calamity,” Morales said.
Morales said Ejercito “acted in concert with the members of the city council who authorized him to purchase firearms using the city’s calamity funds, paving the way for the application of public funds for a purpose different from the one for which they were originally appropriated by law.”
“I think our political enemies are the ones who pushed this case. I might be wrong but there will be no one else who will push this because this is an old case,” Ejercito told reporters.
He said the Commission on Audit (COA) had cleared him “and the whole Sangguniang Bayan.” Asked if he was referring to local politics, he said this was a possibility.
Ejercito said his lawyer, Sigfrid Fortun, would likely file a motion for a reconsideration of the Ombudsman decision.
“If needed, we’ll probably elevate this to the Court of Appeals because it’s very clear that there is nothing irregular,” he said.
Mother’s poll campaign
Ejercito wondered how the case had prospered as his camp had already given evidence to nullify the case and that the one who filed the complaint was “anonymous.”
Explaining the case, he said the Ombudsman had said he used the city government’s calamity fund in buying firearms.
Ejercito said the calamity fund wasn’t used at first because of the urgency of arming policemen. He said the COA called the city government’s attention that it could not use calamity funds for buying the firearms.
And that was what they did, he said, adding they asked the local council to provide a supplemental budget for the firearms and the COA did not find anything irregular about this.
“The calamity fund is intact. So where is the malversation there? There’s nothing to malverse because the calamity fund is intact,” he said.
Without naming names, Ejercito said his political enemies were very strong and had a powerful law office.
Ejercito has been focusing in the campaign of his mother, Guia Gomez, who is seeking reelection as San Juan mayor. Reports from Dona Z. Pazzibugan and Christine O. Avendaño
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