Sandigan sets trial of ‘JV’ next month

The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division set the trial of Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito next month in connection with the alleged anomalous purchase of high-powered firearms during his incumbency as mayor of San Juan City.

The setting of the first day of the trial of Ejercito was set by the anti-graft court during a pre-trial proceeding yesterday wherein July 18 was the chosen date.
The Fifth Division chairman Associate Justice Roland Jurado said the hearing would be held once a week as they intend to conduct a speedy trial of the case. The hearing of the case will be every Monday of the week.
The setting of the Monday every week schedule of the hearing was set by Jurado as the court dismissed the appeal of the prosecution to hold the hearing every other week also Monday, explaining some of their witnesses might not be available for a weekly trial.
In its ruling, the court said  once a case is filed before the court, the prosecution must be ready with its witnesses and documentary evidence anytime the court wanted them to be presented in trial.
The graft case of Ejercito and his five co-accused was in connection with the alleged anomalous purchase of high-powered firearms worth P2.1 million in 2008 during his term as mayor of San Juan City and was distributed to the local police for their anti-crime drive.
According to the information filed by the Office of the Ombudsman last April, the purchase was anomalous because the money used for the acquisition of the guns came from its calamity  fund although there was no calamity at the time.
There was also no competitive bidding held and examination of the supplier’s qualification, according to the information filed by the Ombudsman before the anti-graft court.
The prosecution included in its pre-trial brief submitted to the court its witnesses — former incumbent officials of San Juan City government, including the former San Juan Police chief, secretariat and members of the San Juan Bids and Awards Committee (BAC), city treasurer, city accountant, secretary of the city council, a representative from the BAC Technical Working Group (TWG), a property officer, a city inspection officer and a bookkeeper.
The prosecution also included in the witness list representatives from the Commission on Audit (CoA), Land Bank of the Philippines and Philippine National Police (PNP) as well as a television reporter.
Among the documents that the prosecution listed as its exhibits were a supposed letter by Ejercito addressed to the vice mayor and the city council requesting the authority to purchase the firearms using the calamity fund, a city council resolution approving the purchase using the calamity fund, some bidding documents, disbursement vouchers and purchase receipts, among other things.
If the need arises the prosecution said it would present additional witnesses and

documentary evidence not listed in its pre-trial brief.
“The prosecution respectfully reserves the right to present additional documentary exhibits and witnesses whose testimonies may appear material only in the course of the trial,” the prosecution said in its pre-trial brief.
The defense, for its part, listed as witnesses were “all the accused,” including Ejercito, representatives from BAC secretariat, BAC TWG, city council as well as former and incumbent officers of San Juan Police and PNP National Headquarters.
Repesentatives from CoA, Department of Budget and Management, Department of Interior and Local Government as well as representatives from various media outfits, including GMA Network, ABS-CBN and three daily broadsheets as its witnesses.
The senator earlier had said the case filed against him was political in nature and the purchase had no irregularity, saying the situation at the time called for the firearms’ purchase.
“I feel that the situation calls for it. As mayor, at that time, peace and order (in San Juan) was really bad, ‘yun lang. Kung gusto nila akong makulong dahil prinoteksyonan ko ang aking mga constituents, so be it,” Ejercito said.
He, however, maintained that there was nothing irregular with the purchase of the questioned items, claiming the money actually came not from the calamity fund but from the city’s supplemental budget for 2008.
Ejercito is also facing a technical malversation case in another division of the Sandiganbayan in connection with the alleged firearms anomaly.
The senator said he is confident that eventually the graft case will be junked by the court as he is of the belief that they have not done wrong in the purchase of the guns.
The five co-accused of Ejercito are former San Juan City BAC members, namely, City Administrator Ranulfo Dacalos, treasurer Rosalinda Marasigan, City Attorney Romualdo de los Santos, City Budget Officer Lorenza Ching and City Engineer Danilo Mercado.

Source: Tribune