SENATOR Joseph Victor Ejercito on Friday said he would go on “forced vacation” after the Supreme Court affirmed the 90-day preventive suspension issued by the Sandiganbayan against him over a graft case.
“I want to spare the Senate from any controversy so I will go on ‘forced vacation,’” the former San Juan mayor said in a text message, adding that he would give a privilege speech on the matter on Monday.
The case at the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court stemmed from the alleged illegal use of calamity funds in 2008 to buy guns for policemen when Ejercito was mayor.
“My conscience is clear. If I will be punished because I wanted to protect and save the lives of my constituents, then so be it,” said Ejercito, son of Manila mayor and deposed former president Joseph Estrada.
The high court’s first division said the Sandiganbayan fifth division did not commit grave abuse of discretion when it handed down the suspension order on August 22.
“As correctly ruled by the Sandiganbayan, Section 13 of Republic Act 3019 prescribes the mandatory suspension of any incumbent public officer who has been charged of a valid information under the said law,” said the high tribunal, referring to the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The 90-day suspension order was received by Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd on August 23.
Pimentel earlier said his office could not enforce the order because under Senate rules, the chamber has no power to suspend any of its members.
Also covered by the Supreme Court resolution were Ranulfo Dacalos and Romualdo de los Santos, employees of the San Juan city government.
Ejercito’s mother, San Juan Mayor Guia Gomez, told the Sandiganbayan in a November 4 letter that she had implemented the preventive suspension against Dacalos, the San Juan city administrator and de los Santos, city legal officer.
Attached to the letter was a memorandum dated October 28 informing Dacalos and de los Santos of the suspension pendente lite (pending investigation) for a period of 90 days or from November 05, 2016 to February 04, 2017.
Plea for separate trial dismissed
The Sandiganbayan’s sixth division meanwhile thumbed down the plea of Ejercito and several other defendants for an earlier trial separate from their co-accused in the technical malversation case filed against them in connection with the firearms deal.
A court resolution promulgated on October 17 said: “[L]et the proceedings of this case be synchronized in the sense that it shall first resolve all pending incidents before the prosecution will start the presentation of its evidence against all accused.”
The court earlier set an initial trial on November 22 and 23. Citing their constitutional right to a speedy trial, Ejercito and nine other defendants sought a separate trial, saying it “should not be delayed” because of a pleading filed by other respondents to quash the charges.
The other respondents were former city councilors Angelino Mendoza and Rolando Bernardo and former vice mayor Francisco Zamora, who ran against Gomez in the May elections.
, JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA AND REINA TOLENTINO