MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Office of the Ombudsman has found probable cause to charge Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito for graft and technical malversation in connection with the anomalous procurement of high-powered firearms by the San Juan city government when he was mayor in 2008.
The Ombudsman said in a statement on Tuesday, December 8, that Ejercito is liable for violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act or Republic Act No. 3019, for San Juan's purchase of high-powered firearms for disaster relief and mitigation purposes.
Also facing technical malversation charges are former vice mayor and now city councilor Leonardo Celles, and the following members of the city council at the time of procurement:
The Ombudsman also found probable cause that the following violated Section 3(e) of RA 3019: bids and awards committee members City Administrator Ranulfo Dacalos, Treasurer Rosalinda Marasigan, City Attorney Romualdo Delos Santos, City Budget Officer Lorenza Ching, and City Engineer Danilo Mercado.
Dacalos, Marasigan, Delos Santos, Mercado, and Barazon were also found guilty of misconduct and were ordered suspended without pay for 6 months.
"[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," said Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.
Based on its investigation, the Ombudsman discovered that in February 2008, Ejercito requested the city council for authority to purchase high-powered firearms using the city's calamity fund, justifying it as “an investment for disaster preparedness.”
In response, the councilors passed City Ordinance No. 9 (Series of 2008) authorizing Ejercito to buy firearms for the San Juan police department.
In 2008, the respondents purchased 3 units of model K2 caliber 5.56mm sub-machine guns, and 17 units of Daewoo model K1 caliber 5.56mm sub-machines guns, for a total amount of P2.1 million.
Under DBM-DILG Circular No. 2003-1, high-powered firearms are not among the items contemplated for disaster relief and mitigation. The Ombudsman also noted that there was no declaration placing San Juan under a state of calamity.
In its 20-page joint resolution, the Ombudsman found that there was a “hasty procurement of specific high-powered firearms of a particular brand sans competitive bidding."
It said the absence of "any post-qualification, bolstered by bid documents bearing dates earlier than the publication of the invitation to bid" point to an "unwarranted benefit, advantage, and preference” given to the supplier.
In a statement, Ejercito expressed confidence that the case would not prosper and said his lawyer, Sigfrid Fortun, would file a motion for reconsideration with the Ombudsman.
"My conscience is clear....I am ready to answer every accusation hurled at me regarding technical malversation," he said.
He noted that the purchase of the high-powered firearms for the San Juan police was the city's deterrent against "the spike of criminal incidents within the metropolis such as robbery-holdup, kidnap for ransom, and gun for hire."
He said that acting on the advice of the Commission on Audit, the Calamity Fund was not used for the purchase of the weapons.
"San Juan City’s record in COA is clear. There was no Notice of Disallowance since there had been no anomaly or malversation. In fact, at the end of 2008, the Calamity Fund remained intact" Ejercito said.
The senator also questioned the timing of the filing of the charges against him.
"The timing of this case is questionable. No doubt this is politically motivated especially that the complainant wanted to be anonymous. This issue has long been dead, why is it being resurrected 7 years after, from my time as Mayor of San Juan? Are they determined to jail me for protecting the interests of the people of San Juan against lawless elements?" he asked. – Rappler.com