By: Roy Bersales
SENATOR Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito finally expressed respect to the rule of law as he promised to take a 90-day leave as ordered by an anti-graft court.
Ejercito, son of Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada to San Juan City Mayor Guia Gomez, made the promise after he learned that the Supreme Court has affirmed the decision of the Sandiganbayan for him to take a 90-day leave from the Senate in connection with the corruption charges he and several others, are facing before the court.
Ejercito became controversial due to his supposed strong opposition to abide with the Sandiganbayan.
His half-brother, former Senator Jinggoy Estrada has been detained at Camp Crame since he is also facing corruption charges in connection with over P10 Billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocated on the various non-government-organizations (NGOs) of businesswoman Janet Napoles.
On its decision, Supreme Court’s first division said the Sandiganbayan’s fifth division’s order on August 22 did not commit grave abuse of power in suspending Ejercito.
The same division pointed out that “As correctly ruled by the Sandiganbayan, Section 13 of Republic Act 3019 prescribes the mandatory suspension of any incumbent public officer who has been charged of a valid information” as stated in the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Ejercito’s case has something to do with the findings of the Office of the Ombudsman in 2008 saying Ejercito, together with several others, was guilty of graft for allowing the purchase of high power guns using the San City funds that was intended as calamity funds.
The Office of the Ombudsman never stated that Ejercito and company have deliberately change the use of the funds to earn, but it was all about the purpose and real intention of the money, which was not for guns but for the victims of calamity in the city.
Sandiganbayan’s order reached the office Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd on August 23, but the latter refused to enforce the court’s order because according to the senator the Senate has no rule, or power to suspend any of its members.
Ejercito told other journalist that if ever he “will be punished, [it was] because I wanted to protect and save the lives of my constituents, then so be it.”
Ejercito’s fellow accused Ranulfo Dacalos and Romualdo de los Santos have been suspended for 90 days, according to Mayor Gomez letter to the Sandiganbayan on November 4.
Dacalos is the city’s administrator, while De los Santos is legal officer of the city.
The duo’s suspension started on November 5 and will end on February 4, 2017.
Aside from them, the other respondents were former city councilors Angelino Mendoza and Rolando Bernardo and former San Juan City Vice-Mayor Francisco Zamora, who was defeated by Gomez in the May elections, for a small number of votes.