MANILA, Philippines – More than 2 months after the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan ordered his preventive suspension, Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito will finally serve it starting Tuesday, November 8.
Ejercito himself announced this on Monday, November 7, in his privilege speech.
The Supreme Court had denied Ejercito’s motion questioning the anti-graft court’s ruling.
"Tomorrow, I will voluntarily start serving this 90-day suspension. I will do so because I respect the rule of law. I submit to the authority of the Supreme Court, which recently denied our motion questioning the suspension order," the senator said.
"I will temporarily leave my position as senator, but I will continue my advocacies in my private capacity because I believe that serving the people can still be done outside of government," he said.
Ejercito, a known ally of President Rodrigo Duterte, said he is following the order despite the fact that the Senate committee on rules is still studying the matter. (READ: Senate still undecided on JV Ejercito's suspension)
"I will do so despite the fact that the issue on what to do with the suspension order is still being studied by the Senate committee on rules, which is within our prerogative as a co-equal branch of government," he said.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III earlier referred the court order to the said committee, saying the Sandiganbayan ruling is not immediately executory. Citing Senate rules, he also said that he, as the chamber's top leader, has no power to suspend a member.
"The letter of the Sandiganbayan instructs the Senate President to implement the suspension order. If you look at the rules of the Senate, in the enumeration of the powers of the Senate President, it is not there to suspend a member of the Senate. So I'm letting the Senate committee on rules find out where the power belongs. Or if the exercise of the power can be justified," Pimentel earlier said.
The Sandiganbayan 5th Division earlier ordered the 90-day suspension of Ejercito and 3 San Juan City officials over graft charges stemming from the alleged misuse of San Juan city funds in 2008, when Ejercito was still mayor. (READ: Prosecutors press suspension of JV Ejercito, San Juan execs)
The case involves the alleged unlawful diversion of P2.1 million ($45,148) in calamity funds for the purchase of high-powered firearms for the city's police department.
The two bills filed in both houses of Congress state that the change in position of the public officer in question removes the threat that they would influence potential witnesses or tamper records. – Rappler.com
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email email@example.com