THE Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division has slapped Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito and three of his co-accused with a 90-day preventive suspension pending litigation of a graft case against them for the alleged anomalous purchase of firearms in 2008, when the neophyte senator was city mayor of San Juan.
In a six-page resolution promulgated on August 22 and made public on Tuesday, the court granted the prosecution’s motion to suspend Ejercito as well as San Juan City Administrator Ranulfo Dacalos, City Legal Officer Romualdo de los Santos and Lorenza Ching, special assistant on documentation and compliance.
Dacalos, de los Santos and Ching were likewise suspended for 90 days.
Ejercito and the city hall officials are accused of buying P2.1 million worth of firearms “without the required competitive public bidding, post qualification, and legal appropriation.”
Associate Justice Roland Jurado, who leads the court’s Fifth Division, penned the ruling, which was concurred in by Associate Justices Rafael Lagos and Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega.
At the Senate, Ejercito told reporters he will comply with the court order and won’t file a motion for reconsideration.
He maintained that his decision to purchase the firearms was part of his responsibility as San Juan mayor to further improve the capability of the police to address crime.
“Our police force needed more than moral support as it urgently needed firepower against criminals who virtually held the city under siege. Thus, I approved the purchase of additional firearms for our police force to protect the lives and property of my constituents,” Ejercito pointed out.
Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada defended his son.
“The money came from the calamity funds. It was diverted by JV for the purchase of the firearms because the police, at that time, were short of firearms,” he said.
In granting the prosecution’s motion filed last month, the court held that preventive suspension under Section 13 of Republic Act 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, is mandatory.
Earlier, the defense opposed the prosecution’s move, saying that Ejercito’s suspension would “interrupt public service.”
But the court said there were 23 other senators who could do the job.
The prosecution also filed a motion to suspend the senator and his co-accused, San Juan City councilors Leonardo Celles and Vincent Rainier Pacheco, and Public Information Officer Grace Pardines in a related technical malversation case pending before the court’s Sixth Division.