JV Ejercito pleads not guilty to technical malversation charge
Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito on Thursday pleaded not guilty to the technical malversation charge against him over the anomalous use of P2.1 million calamity funds when he was San Juan mayor in 2008.
He entered his plea during his scheduled arraignment for technical malversation before the Sandiganbayan Sixth Division Thursday morning.
Meanwhile, his co-accused former San Juan vice mayor Francis Zamora no longer entered his plea because he had undergone conditional arraignment for his travel motion when he pleaded not guilty.
Zamora attended the hearing for his pending motion to quash filed before the court.
Ejercito and Zamora and the other city councilors were charged with technical malversation for allowing the issuance of an ordinance to allow the use of the calamity funds for high-powered firearms. Zamora was then a councilor.
The court said it found probable cause after perusing through the motions for judicial determination of probable cause filed by all the accused.
“The Court finds that the grounds raised by the herein accused in support of their assertions in their motions that there was no probable cause to indict them for technical malversation in the procurement of subject firearms… are but matters of defense that are best addressed during the trial of this case,” the court said.
In an interview after his arraignment, Ejercito said he is confident to win the case for submitting himself to the court.
“Ito’y parehong kaso lamang noh (It’s the same case) … I submitted myself to the legal process. I’m hoping for a favorable decision. Confident ako sa defense naming (I am confident with our defense)… I’m hoping to clear my name as soon as possible,” Ejercito said.
Ejercito said he only made the decision to purchase the firearms using the calamity funds to address the peace and order situation in San Juan when he was mayor.
He said he was proud that these equipment were still being used in San Juan.
“Basta tingin ko naman (I believe) I acted based on the situation at the time. At the time na mayor ako talagang malala ang peace and order situation, yun naman ang simula ng kasong ito e (when I was mayor, the peace and order situation was truly dire, and that’s how this case started),” Ejercito said.
“Still I am proud that those equipment that have been purchased are still being used by now,” he added.
The others charged in the case were former vice mayor Leonardo Celles, and the Sangguniang Panlungsod members Jannah Ejercito-Surla (Sen. Ejercito’s cousin), Angelino Mendoza, Andoni Carballo, Vincent Pacheco, Rolando Bernardo, Dante Santiago, Grace Pardines, Francis Keith Peralta, Eduardo Soriano, Joseph Christopher Torralba and Domingo Sese.
All the accused have pleaded not guilty except Bernardo, Mendoza and Sese, who also have pending motions to quash before the court.
Meanwhile, Ejercito-Surla no longer entered her plea because she had also undergone conditional arraignment.
In the Fifth Division, Ejercito was also charged with graft over the same accusation involving the alleged anomalous purchase of high-powered rifles worth P2.1 million using calamity funds when he was San Juan mayor in 2008.
He has posted his P30,000 bail from the graft charge.
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 has pointed at his rival Zamora as being behind the graft rap. Zamora just lost his mayoralty bid to reelected San Juan mayor Guia Gomez, who is Sen. Ejercito’s mother.
Ejercito is the son of former president Joseph Estrada, who was convicted of plunder by the Sandiganbayan over jueteng money but pardoned by former President Gloria Arroyo. Ejercito’s half-brother Sen. Jinggoy Estrada is detained as he faces trial for plunder over the pork barrel scam. CDG