JV Ejercito faces graft raps over P2.1M gun deal

Senator JV Ejercito

MANILA — The Office of the Ombudsman on Wednesday filed graft and technical malversation cases against Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito over the allegedly anomalous purchase of high-powered fireams worth P2.1 million when he was still San Juan City mayor in 2008.

The Ombudsman’s Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP), in two separate charge sheets, charged Ejercito with one count of violation of Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and one count of technical malversation as defined under Article 220 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC).

San Juan City Vice Mayor Francisco Zamora is also among the other former and incumbent city officials who were charged for technical malversation. Zamora is eyeing the city’s top seat currently being held by Ejercito’s mother Guia Gomez.

Zamora and Gomez will go head to head in May.

The OSP recommended P30,000 bail bond each for five city officials accused of graft—city administrator Ranulfo Dacalos, treasurer Rosalinda Marasigan, attorney Romualdo delos Santos, budget officer Lorenza Ching and engineer Danilo Mercardo.

While a P6,000 bail bond for the 14 former and incumbent city officials accused in the technical malversation case was recommended in exchange for their provisional liberty—former San Juan 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, Franciso Zamora, Ramon Nakpil and Joseph Christopher Torralba.

According to the information provided by the Ombudsman, Ejercito conspired with other city officials in February 2008 to purchase high-powered firearms using the city’s calamity fund as “investment for disaster preparedness.” This led the city council to pass a city ordinance allowing Ejercito to buy the firearms for the city’s police department.

It was also noted that the city was not under a state of calamity when the purchase was made.
The firearms bought using the city’s calamity fund include: three units of model K2 cal. 5.56mm sub-machine guns and 17 units of Daewoo model K1 cal. 5.56 mm sub-machine guns.

The purchase of the firearms was done with haste without “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.”

The Ombudsman said that under Circular No. 2003-1 of the Department of Budget and Management and Department of Interior Local Government did not include high-powered firearms among the items needed for disaster relief and mitigation.

Ejercito, the son of former president and incumbent Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, will have a Senate term until 2019.

In a statement issued on his Facebook page on Wednesday, the senator lamented that the charges against him were “politically-motivated.”

He also said that the firearms purchase was done accordingly within the law.

“It is unfortunate that the Office of the Ombudsman denied my Motion for Reconsideration on the 2008 case of firearms procurement, when I was San Juan City Mayor. My conscience, however, remains clear. I did not commit technical malversation. The firearms purchase was done accordingly within the law, that is why COA cleared us from any disallowance. My lawyer and I are preparing the next steps to resolve this case, which is clearly politically motivated,” he said.