IT will be a Merry Christmas for Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito.
The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division has acquitted the former San Juan mayor of graft charges in connection with the city’s purchase of P2.1 million worth of firearms in 2008.
“I thank the good justices of the Sandiganbayan for remaining true to their duty of upholding justice and fairness.
All throughout this process, I have been firm on two things: one, that I am innocent of the charges filed against me, and, two, that I have faith in the fairness of our judicial system,” Ejercito said in a statement.
“These beliefs have been reaffirmed by this decision by the Sandiganbayan. I would like to thank those who believed in what we are doing despite these charges,” Ejercito, also a former San Juan representative, added.
Ejercito thanked his pool of lawyers led by Sigfrid Fortun for what he said was a vigorous defense of his case.
The lawmaker, who went on voluntary leave after the Sandiganbayan ordered his suspension, said he was looking forward to going back to his Senate duties and pushing for his advocacies, such as public transportation, youth empowerment, education, energy, housing and economic development.
“This decision should give our dedicated public servants, especially those in local government, the assurance that for as long as we have the interest of our people at heart, our justice system will protect us from those whose intention is to sow intrigue and whose motivations are purely partisan,” Ejercito said.
In a 45-page resolution, the anti-graft court granted the demurrer to evidence filed by Ejercito in September and acquitted him along with city administrator Ranulfo Dacalos who led the bids and awards committee (BAC) and former BAC members, namely: former acting city treasurer Rosalinda Marasigan, city legal officer Romualdo de los Santos, former city budget officer Lorenza Ching and former city engineer Danilo Mercado.
The court ordered that the bail bonds which they had posted for their provisional liberty be returned to them. It also lifted the hold-departure order that barred the respondents from leaving the country without the court’s permission, as well as the suspension order issued against Ejercito, Dacalos and de los Santos.
In filing the case earlier this year, the Office of the Ombudsman alleged that the respondents procured and paid for the firearms without the required public bidding, post qualification and legal appropriation.
The Ombudsman alleged that the respondents gave HK Tactical Defense System, Inc. (HKTDSI) — the lone bidder — unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference when they pre-selected the brand Daewoo.
But in its ruling, the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division said HKTDSI “could, therefore, not have been given any advantage by the accused BAC members because it was not the exclusive distributor of Daewoo guns and there is no evidence that these accused manipulated the elimination of other Daewoo suppliers.”
As for Ejercito, the court said “there is no evidence, testimonial or documentary, offered by the prosecution to prove that he specified or pre-selected the Daewoo brand.”
“Moreover, the prosecution failed to present proof that Ejercito pressured or influenced his co-accused BAC members to pre-select the Daewoo branded firearms. Ejercito did not even approve the [Invitation to Apply for Eligibility and to Bid] for the said firearms as he merely ‘noted’ said document,” the court said.