Sandigan orders JV Ejercito arrested
The Sandiganbayan has ordered the arrest of Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito for using San Juan’s calamity fund to buy firearms for the police in 2008 when he was the mayor of the city.
Ejercito is a son of Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, a former President of the Philippines, with San Juan Mayor Guia Gomez.
The Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division issued a warrant for Ejercito’s arrest after finding probable cause to try the senator on graft charges.
“After perusing the information and carefully assessing the resolution of the Office of the Ombudsman, the evidence in support thereof and the records of the preliminary investigation attached thereto, the court finds that sufficient grounds exist for the finding of probable cause for the purpose of issuing a warrant of arrest in this case,” the court said in a resolution dated April 4.
“I maintain my innocence and deny any wrongdoing in the purchase of high-powered firearms in 2008,” Ejercito said in a text message Wednesday.
“I know I did nothing wrong, and that this case is undoubtedly politically motivated by oppositionists at the local scene,” he said.
“Nevertheless, I will abide by the legal process and will prepare an adequate defense for this case,” he said.
“I trust that the court of law will conduct fair proceedings and exercise wise judgment. In the end, I also hope to restore my honor and dignity as a senator of the Republic, and as a former San Juan City mayor who only thought of the protection and interests of the people of San Juan against lawless elements,” he added.
The court also ordered the arrest of Ejercito’s coaccused—San Juan City administrator Ranulfo Dacalos, treasurer Rosalinda Marasigan, city attorney Romualdo de los Santos, budget officer Lorenza Ching and city engineer Danilo Mercado.
Dacalos, Marasigan, De los Santos, Ching and Mercado served on the bids and awards committee of the city government that supervised the acquisition of the firearms.
They had been ordered dismissed by the Office of the Ombudsman.
Ejercito and his coaccused can be released temporarily on bail of P30,000 each on one count of graft, according to the warrant signed by Associate Justice Rafael Lagos, acting chair of the Fifth Division, and sent to the police chiefs of San Juan City and Quezon City.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales indicted Ejercito and his coaccused in the Sandiganbayan last month, alleging graft and technical malversation involving the use of P2.1 million from San Juan City’s calamity fund to buy submachine guns for the city police in February 2008.
Morales found irregular the use of the city’s calamity fund to buy three Daewoo K2 submachine guns and 17 Daewoo K1 submachine guns.
The submachine guns are made by Daewoo Precision Industries of South Korea and chambered for the 5.56mm ammunition.
According to the information filed by the Ombudsman, Ejercito conspired with other city officials to buy high-powered firearms using the city’s calamity fund, calling the purchase an “investment for disaster preparedness.”
The San Juan City Council passed a resolution authorizing the purchase of the firearms.
Morales rejected Ejercito’s claim that the firearms purchase was an investment in disaster preparedness, citing a circular jointly issued by the Department of Budget and the Department of the Interior and Local Government in 2003 that does not list firearms among things necessary for disaster relief and mitigation.
The Ombudsman also pointed out that San Juan was not under a state of calamity at the time of the purchase of the firearms.
Ombudsman prosecutors said in the information that the purchase of the firearms was done with haste, without “competitive bidding and without any postqualification bolstered by bid documents bearing dates earlier than the publication of the invitation to bid, showing that unwarranted benefit, advantage and preference were accorded to the supplier.”
Ejercito, whose Senate term runs up to 2019, was also charged with technical malversation over the purchase of the submachine guns.
Also accused of technical malversation were 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, Francisco Zamora (the current vice mayor), Ramon Nakpil and Joseph Christopher Torralba.
The Ombudsman accused them of giving Ejercito authority to use calamity funds to buy the firearms.
The Sandiganbayan Sixth Division, which is handling the case, has yet to issue a resolution. With reports from Marc Jayson Cayabyab, Inquirer.net; and Inquirer Research
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