Sandiganbayan orders 90-day suspension of Sen. JV Ejercito, 3 others

MANILA — The Sandiganbayan on Tuesday ordered the suspension of Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito and three others for 90 days in connection with the graft case filed against them on the allegedly anomalous purchase of firearms in 2008.

In a six-page resolution, the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division said that Ejercito is suspended “from his position as Senator of the Republic of the Philippines, and from any other public office which he may now or hereafter be holding for a period of ninety (90) days from receipt of this resolution, unless a motion for reconsideration is seasonably filed.”

The graft case against Ejercito arose from the procurement made by city government of San Juan of high-powered rifles in 2008, when he was city mayor.

The purchase was made using the calamity funds of San Juan City even though the city was then not under a state of calamity.

Likewise placed under the preventive 90-day suspension were Ejercito’s co-accused: namely: city administrator Ranulfo Dacalos, city legal officer Romualdo Delos Santos, and City Documentation and Compliance Office special assistant Lorenza Ching.

The Ombudsman, through the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP), had earlier asked the Sandiganbayan to suspend Ejercito and his co-accused, who are incumbent officials of San Juan City, to be placed under preventive suspension in accordance with the rules.

The OSP said that under Section 13 of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, any incumbent officer “shall be suspended from office” when he or she is being prosecuted “under a valid [case] information” for any crime involving “fraud upon government or public funds or property.”

In its resolution, the Sandiganbayan said that placing an incumbent public official under preventive suspension is mandatory, “as evident from the very wording of the law.”

The Sandiganbayan did not agree with Ejercito’s argument that his suspension “will interrupt” public service since he is serving as a senator.

It said that such a scenario is “unlikely” since he has 23 colleagues in the Senate who can promote his advocacies.

While Ejercito is chairperson of the Senate committee on urban planning, housing and resettlement, the Sandiganbayan said that Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III will “surely know” how to deal with and fill the vacancies that his colleague’s suspension will cause.

The Sandiganbayan said that Ejercito’s mother, San Juan City Mayor Guia Gomez, will likewise know what to do with the vacancies caused by the suspension of the senator’s co-accused in the case.

“Considering that the Information had been found o be sufficient in form and substance, and considering that the charge herein squarely falls within the ambit of the invoked provision of RA 3019 on suspension, and considering further the mandatory tenor thereof, the Court must issue the order of suspension as a matter of course,” it said. Perfecto Raymundo/PNA/