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Sen. Ejercito, 19 San Juan execs indicted for guns purchase mess

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QUEZON CITY/SAN JUAN CITY (via PhilAmPress) — The Office of the Ombudsman (Ombudsman) has found probable cause to charge former Mayor and now Senator Joseph Victor "JV" Ejercito for violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019, or the "Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act", and technical malversation in connection with the anomalous procurement of high-powered firearms in February 2008.

Also facing charges for technical malversation are Vice Mayor Leonardo Celles and City Councilors Andoni Carballo, Vincent Pacheco, Angelino Mendoza, Dante Santiago, Rolando Bernardo, Grace Pardines, Domingo Sese, Francis Peralta, Edgardo Soriano, Jannah Ejercito-Surla, Francisco Javier Zamora, Ramon Nakpil and Joseph Christopher Torralba.

Ejercito said he was surprised at the indictment but nevertheless welcomed the filing of the charges to give him the opportunity to clear himself and the others of the charges.

”I’m really surprised because I thought it will not prosper because first it was filed by an anonymous person and secondly, I was very careful then in every documents and you must understand during those times, I was in the opposition. That’s why I’m very confident that there was no irregularity,” Ejercito said in the Senate.

Ejercito confirmed that he requested the San Juan City Council to purchase firearms using calamity fund.

”It was an urgent need then because of series of robberies, hold-up and kidnap for ransoms,” Ejercito explained.

The senator clarified that he rectified the mistakes based on the advised of the Commission on Audit (COA) by asking for supplemental budget from the City Council to cover the purchase.

”In the year end in 2008, COA found nothing irregular. The calamity funds were intact so there is no malversation. There were no things of disallowance up to this very date from the COA,” he said.

Ejercito said he suspected that the revival of the case was politically motivated considering his mother, San Juan City Mayor Guia Gomez is seeking reelection against former ally Vice Mayor Francis Zamora, son of Rep. Ronaldo Zamora of San Juan.

”Well, it is really politically motivated. My suspicion is that our rivals in politics are pushing this case. I might be wrong but no one else will push it because it’s an old case and the COA cleared us already as well as the whole Sangguniang Bayan,” Ejercito said.

Nevertheless, Ejercito said he is ready to answer “every accusation hurled at me regarding technical malversation.”

”My lawyer, Atty. Sig Fortun, has prepared a sound response to this case and we are confident that we will see the light of day in no time. We will submit a Motion for Reconsideration at the Office of the Ombudsman soon,” Ejercito said.

The Ombudsman also found probable cause for violation of Section 3(e) of RA No. 3019 against the Bids and Awards Committee members, namely: City Administrator Ranulfo Dacalos, Treasurer Rosalinda Marasigan, City Attorney Romualdo Delos Santos, City Budget Officer Lorenza Ching and City Engineer Danilo Mercardo.

Dacalos, Marasigan, Delos Santos, Mercado and Accountant Alicia Barazon were also found guilty of misconduct and were ordered suspended without pay for six months.

Investigation found that in February 2008, Ejercito requested the City Council for authority to purchase high-powered firearms using its calamity fund.

In response, the councilors passed City Ordinance No. 9 (Series of 2008) authorizing Ejercito to purchase firearms for the San Juan Police Department.Ejercito admitted appropriating money for the purchase from the calamity fund, but the same was replaced from a special fund eventually. 

He said that the purchase was made at a time when the long firearms of Metro Manila policemen were recalled and given to the provincial policemen. It was a time when there was a rash of kidnap for ransom, robbery and other crimes, he said.

In 2008, the respondents purchased three units of model K2 cal. 5.56mm sub-machine guns and 17 units of Daewoo model K1 cal. 5.56mm sub-machines guns in the total amount of P2.1 million.

Under Department of Budget and Management-Department of Interior and Local Government (DBM-DILG) Circular No. 2003-1, high-powered firearms are not among the items contemplated for disaster relief and mitigation.

Also, there was no declaration placing San Juan under a state of calamity at that time.

In its 20-page joint resolution, the Ombudsman found a "hasty procurement of specific high-powered firearms of a particular brand sans competitive bidding and without any post-qualification, bolstered by bid documents bearing dates earlier than the publication of the invitation to bid, showing that an unwarranted benefit, advantage and preference" was accorded to the supplier.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said that Ejercito "acted in concert with the members of the city council who authorized him to purchase firearms using the city's calamity funds paving the way for the application of public funds for a purpose different from the one for which they were originally appropriated by law."

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