The Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division has found probable cause to try the graft case filed against Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito and five others in connection with the allegedly anomalous purchase of high-powered firearms in 2008 when he was the mayor of San Juan City.
The anti-graft court issued a warrant for the arrest of the respondents.
“After perusing the information and carefully assessing the resolution of the Office of the Ombudsman, the evidence in support thereof and the records of the preliminary investigation attached thereto, the Court finds that sufficient grounds exist for the finding probable cause for the purpose of issuing warrant of arrest in this case,” the court said in a resolution dated April 4 and made public on Wednesday afternoon.
The court ordered that warrants of arrest be issued against Ejercito, former City Administrator Ranulfo Dacalos, former head of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC), and its members—former City Treasurer Rosalinda Marasigan, former City Legal Officer Romualdo de los Santos, former City Budget Officer Lorenza Ching, and former City Engineer Danilo Mercado.
The ruling was signed by Associate Justices Rafael Lagos, the Acting Chairperson of the court’s Fifth Division, and Associate Justices Ma. Theresa Mendoza-Arcega and Zaldy Trespeses.
Last week, the Office of the Ombudsman filed a complaint against the respondents for violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The Ombudsman accused them of procuring and paying for the firearms without public bidding.
It recommended a P30,000 bail for each of the accused.
Ejercito however maintained that he is innocent.
“I am not worried that the Sandiganbayan issued a warrant of arrest against me. I know I did no wrong, and that this case is undoubtedly politically motivated by oppositionists at the local scene,” the senator said.
Still, he said that he will abide by the legal process and prepare an adequate defense for his case.
“In the end, I hope to restore my honor and dignity as a Senator of the Republic, and as a former San Juan City Mayor who only thought of the protection and interests of the people of San Juan against lawless elements,” Ejercito said.
The senator also dismissed as “rehash” reports that he owns an offshore account, and said that he is not hiding anything.
According to him, all of his interests, including those properties outside the Philippines, are stated in his statement of assets liabilities and net worth.
“I don’t want discuss further the issue because I already answered it several times in 2013, when I was running as senator,” he added.