JV Ejercito blames rivals in firearms deal graft rap
Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito on Thursday pointed at his rival San Juan Vice Mayor Francis Zamora as behind the graft charge against him before the Sandiganbayan over an allegedly anomalous firearms purchase deal.
In an interview with reporters after posting his P30,000 bail for one count of graft, Ejercito said the issue at hand is local politics, particularly that of his rivalry with Zamora, a former ally who turned his back against Ejercito’s mother incumbent mayor Guia Gomez.
Gomez and Zamora will run against each other in the San Juan mayoralty race in the coming May 9 polls.
Meanwhile, Zamora’s runningmate councilor Ronaldo Bernardo will run for vice mayor against Gomez’s runningmate Janella Ejercito, JV’s niece and the daughter of JV’s brother Jinggoy Estrada.
Zamora is the son of San Juan representative and minority floor leader Ronaldo Zamora.
“Connected (ito) sa local politics, hindi ito national politics… Wala namang iba eh,” Ejercito said, when asked directly if he thought his political opponents had a hand in the case.
(It’s connected with local politics, not national politics…There’s nothing else.)
Ejercito said he would not risk tarnishing his reputation just for a P2-million transaction.
“I’ve been in politics for almost 15 years. Wala akong kaso kailanman kahit ako’y nasa oposisyon nuon (I have never had a case even while I was with the opposition before). I’ve tried so hard to keep my track record, my name, unblemished,” Ejercito said.
“I will not destroy my name for a P2-million transaction or for any amount for that matter,” he added.
Ejercito said he lamented the media slant against him over his graft charge, but he said he remains confident the case would be dismissed.
“I’m very confident, I trust the court. If we will just stick to the merits of the case, I’m very much confident that this would be dismissed. Kaya lang, talo lang ako sa perception. Lumalabas sa headline, naka-headline agad ako for graft, hindi naman nakalagay yung circumstances kung magkano involved (But I’m on the losing end when it comes to perception. The headlines link me to graft, it’s not even stated what the circumstances are or how much is involved),” Ejercito said.
He said when he and the Zamoras were allies in 2013, Vice Mayor Zamora and Rep. Zamora supposedly told the councilors to point at Ejercito as behind the anomalous firearms deal.
“Magkakampi pa kami, pinatawag ng mga mag-ama ung mga konsehal na involved dito. Sabi nila, ‘madali lang naman yan eh ituro nyo si JV na pinilit kayong ipasa ung ordinansa’ … Inutos ng mga Zamora,” Ejercito said.
(Even when we were still allies, the father-and-son team have already called on the councilors involved here. They said, ‘it’s easy, just say that JV forced you to pass the ordinance’…the Zamoras ordered.)
He said he only performed his duties as mayor when he authorized the use of calamity funds for the purchase of high-powered firearms to address the peace and order situation in San Juan.
“I’ve acted na when I felt the situation called for it as mayor, at the time peace and order was really bad. Kung gusto nila ako makulong dahil pinroteskyunan ko ang aking mga constituents, so be it (If they want me to go to jail because I want to protect my constituents, so be it),” Ejercito said.
He said he was careful with the funds when he was San Juan mayor because he was a member of the opposition.
“I’m so careful. Masyado akong maingat nung mga panahong iyon (I was very cautious at that time). Remember I was in the opposition,” Ejercito said.
For his part, vice mayor Zamora said Ejercito should instead answer the allegations filed against him in court.
“Ang ginagawang pagturo sa amin, pagpapalusot, yan ay ginagawa ng taong guilty. Bakit hindi niya ipaliwanag ang maanomalyang pagbili ng baril?” Zamora said.
Zamora’s father San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora said Ejercito should have just answered the allegations “and not raise the red herring of local politics as a motive.”
“JV has always been known in San Juan to be the least bright among the Estradas. He should not use every turn and every opportunity like this one to prove it,” he said in a text message.
Ejercito posted bail on Thursday after the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division issued an arrest warrant against him after it found probable cause to try him for graft.
“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 purpose of issuing warrant of arrest in this case,” the court said in a resolution dated April 4.
Among those who were issued warrants and posted bail Thursday were Ejercito’s co-accused – city administrator Ranulfo Dacalos, treasurer Rosalinda Marasigan, attorney Romualdo delos Santos, budget officer Lorenza Ching and engineer Danilo Mercardo.
Ejercito was charged with graft over the alleged anomalous purchase of high-powered rifles worth P2.1 million using calamity funds when he was San Juan mayor in 2008.
According to the information, Ejercito conspired with other city officials to purchase high-powered firearms in February 2008 using the city’s calamity fund as “investment for disaster preparedness.”
The city council then passed a city ordinance allowing Ejercito to buy the firearms for the city’s police department.
Ejercito approved the purchase even though the city was not under a state of calamity when the purchase was made.
The firearms bought using the city’s calamity fund include: three units of model K2 cal. 5.56mm sub-machine guns and 17 units of Daewoo model K1 cal. 5.56 mm sub-machine guns.
The purchase of the firearms was done with haste without “competitive bidding and without any post-qualification, bolstered by bid documents bearing dates earlier than the publication of the invitation to bid, showing that an unwarranted benefit, advantage and preference was accorded to the supplier,” the prosecutors said.
The Ombudsman cited the joint circular between the Departments of Budget and Management as well as of Interior and Local Government which did not include high-powered firearms among the items needed for disaster relief and mitigation.
Ejercito will serve as senator until 2019.
Ejercito and Zamora and the other city councilors were also charged with technical malversation over the issuance of an ordinance to allow the use of the calamity funds for high-powered firearms. Zamora was then a councilor.
The Sandiganbayan Sixth Division hearing the case has yet to issue the arrest warrant for Ejercito and Zamora for technical malversation.
The antigraft court Fifth Division is also hearing the plunder case of Ejercito’s half brother Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, who is detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center over his alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam.
Jinggoy is Loi Ejercito’s son, while JV is Gomez’s son, with former president Joseph Estrada.
In 2007, now Manila mayor Estrada was convicted of plunder by the Sandiganbayan on jueteng kickbacks. He was later pardoned by then president Gloria Arroyo. CDG
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