Sandigan sustains JV acquittal for calamity fund misuse
The Sandiganbayan has affirmed the acquittal of Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito and 12 others for the alleged misuse of calamity funds to purchase high-powered firearms when he was the mayor of San Juan City in 2008.
In a six-page resolution dated Oct. 4, the court’s Sixth Division denied the appeal of the Office of the Ombudsman on its Aug. 10 decision granting to grant the demurrers of the San Juan City officials.
As usual, the court noted that acquittals are “immediately and executory upon its promulgation” and the accused cannot be retried by the government in the hope of securing a conviction.
“As a general rule, it can neither be appealed nor reconsidered because it will place the accused under double jeopardy,” read the resolution.
The court also found nothing new in the arguments raised by the prosecution and reiterated its finding that “the evidence presented by the Prosecution is insufficient to warrant the conviction of the accused of the crime of Illegal Use of Public Funds.”
The Aug. 10 decision cited the prosecution’s inability to prove that the P2.1 million spent on the firearms was indeed sourced from the city’s calamity funds. Prosecution witnesses, instead, showed the city used its general funds and the 2008 calamity fund was intact.
Even as the city council passed ordinances allowing Ejercito to use the funds, the prosecution failed to show the “actual use” to convict the officials for technical malversation.
Besides Ejercito, the court also cleared incumbent councilors Leonardo Celles and Vincent Rainier Pacheco, and public information officer Grace Pardines.
The other acquitted defendants were former councilors Francis Zamora, Andoni Miguel Carballo, Vincent Rainer Pacheco, Angelino Mendoza, Dante Santiago, Rolando Bernardo, Grace Pardines, Francis Keith Peralta, Edgardo Soriano, Jannah Ejercito-Surla, and Joseph Christopher Torralba.
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