JV Ejercito seeks court’s nod for Hong Kong trip
Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito asked the Sandiganbayan’s approval for him to travel to Hong Kong with his family even as he faces a technical malversation and graft case for the alleged anomalous use of calamity funds.
In a motion filed before the anti-graft court Sixth Division, Ejercito asked the court’s permission for him to travel to Hong Kong from Oct. 14 to 16 for a “family vacation with his wife and son.”
Ejercito took to Twitter to correct his motion and said he would travel to Hong Kong to accompany his wife to fix her retirement papers there.
According to his itinerary, Ejercito and his family would be staying at Gateway Hotel, Hong Kong, and would go to the Immigration Tower for the renewal of his wife’s Hong Kong identification card.
Ejercito dedicated a whole day on Oct. 15 for a “free day” and marked his return to Manila on Oct. 16.
In his motion, Ejercito told the court he is not a flight risk owing to his national post as senator.
Ejercito through his lawyers also said he would be willing to post a travel bond and appear before the court immediately upon his prompt return.
“Accused is not a flight risk, as he is a Senator of the Republic, and owes fidelity to the people who voted for him. His scheduled quick return to the country also manifests the absence of any intention on his part to flee,” Ejercito said.
He cited his constitutional right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
In opposing Ejercito’s request, the Office of the Special Prosecutor said “it appears the reason that the intended travel of accused Ejercito in Hong Kong is purely for leisure and recreational.”
The prosecuting panel said there seems to be no “compelling reason” for Ejercito to travel, the rejection of which would not cause his family any “irreparable damage or prejudice.”
The prosecutors said the right to travel of the accused was not absolute and that this right was subject to restraints from the court.
“Wherefore, premises considered, it is respectfully prayed that accused Ejercito’s motion be denied for lack of merit,” the prosecutors said.
Ejercito, former San Juan vice mayor Francis 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 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.
In the Fifth Division, Ejercito has a separate graft trial over the same accusation involving the alleged anomalous purchase of high-powered rifles worth P2.1 million using calamity funds that caused undue injury to government when he was San Juan mayor in 2008.
He has filed a demurrer to evidence after the prosecution finished its presentation of evidence.
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 firearms bought using the city’s calamity fund included 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.
Ejercito has pointed at his rival Zamora as being behind the graft accusation. Zamora just lost his mayoral bid to Ejercito’s mother, reelected San Juan mayor Guia Gomez. RAM/rga
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