Sandiganbayan nixes JV Ejercito’s bid for early resolution of case
MANILA — The Sandiganbayan Sixth Division has thumbed down the bid of Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito for the court to resolve his technical malversation case ahead of his co-accused and political rival, former San Juan City Vice-Mayor Francis Zamora.
Justice Rodolfo A. Ponferrada said in open court on Thursday that Ejercito’s request was premature because the prosecution has not been given the chance to oppose his demurrer to its evidence.
Ponferrada stressed that the court should give the prosecution time to file a consolidated comment on the two motions to dismiss the case for insufficiency of evidence.
“The accused [Ejercito] is charged in conspiracy with the others,” he explained the decision to resolve Ejercito and Zamora’s demurrers jointly.
Ejercito’s lawyer Ma. Althea Rholene Raypon argued during the hearing that the senator’s rights would be affected by the delay.
Since Zamora’s camp has not submitted a demurrer, the prosecution could not yet defend the sufficiency of its evidence and both demurrers could not yet be resolved.
Ponferrada said: “We are vigilant about the rights of the accused. [But] we have to give the prosecution that opportunity to file their comment within 10 days. So we deny the motion.”
The court agreed to entertain the demurrers of Ejercito and Zamora in a May 15 resolution. While Ejercito’s camp attached the demurrer at the onset when they asked the court’s permission on March 24, Zamora’s motion for leave did not yet include his demurrer.
On May 22, Ejercito’s camp complained that Zamora, along with the latter’s fellow former councilors Angelino Mendoza and Rolando Bernardo, have not filed their demurrer.
The senator’s three-page motion invoked Rule 36 of the Rules of Court allowing “several judgments” so the case against some of the defendants may be resolved ahead of the others who can proceed later.
“In the subject case, there is no need to consolidate the rulings on the two Demurrers to Evidence as it will only delay the ruling on Ejercito et al’s Demurrer to Evidence in violation of their right to a speedy disposition of their case,” the motion read.
“There is no reason for this Honorable Court to wait for accused Mendoza et al’s filing as it will not affect Ejercito’s Demurrer to Evidence and the Opposition earlier filed by the prosecution,” it added.
Ejercito’s motion was joined by incumbent city councilors Leonardo Celles and Vincent Rainier Pacheco, public information officer Grace Pardines, and former councilors Andoni Miguel Carballo, Vincent Rainer Pacheco, Dante Santiago, Grace Pardines, Francis Keith Peralta, Edgardo Soriano, Jannah Ejercito-Surla, and Joseph Christopher Torralba.
The technical malversation case arose from the alleged misuse of P2.1 million in calamity funds to purchase high-powered firearms when Ejercito was mayor in 2008. This was despite the fact that the city did not declare a state of calamity and the guns were not among the items allowed to be purchased with the funds
While the technical malversation case is still pending trial at the Sixth Division, the court’s Fifth Division in Dec. 22 already granted Ejercito’s demurrer against the separate graft case in connection with alleged procurement anomalies in the award of the contract to lone bidder HK Tactical Defense System, Inc. SFM
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