By: Nelson S. Badilla
THE dismissal of the P2.1 Million graft charges against Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito was not surprising at all, rather it was extremely disappointing because another top official of the government was cleared by the Sandiganbayan.
The Fifth Division of the Sandiganbayan said the state prosecutors failed to prove that as a mayor of San Juan City in 2008, Ejercito favored and gave unwarranted benefit and advantage to the HK Tactical Defense System Inc. (HKTDSI) to supply high-powered firearms to the San Juan City.
It argued that the price of the Daewoo gun purchased from the HKTDSI was near to the price of the firearms of the same model but with different brands.
Thus, this tight product pricing of guns from different firms disproves that Ejercito earned from the purchase of P2.1 Million high-powered firearms of the San Juan City government.
At the same time, the Sandiganbayan took notice of the prosecutions failure to convince the court that it influenced, or forced, the Bids and Awards Committee in approving the bidding proposal of the winning gun supplier.
Therefore, Ejercito was cleared due to lack of evidence.
Ejercito is seriously thinking that the other face of the P2.1 Million graft charges, which is technical malversation since the P2.1 Million was originally and officially intended as a calamity fund but used to purchase the high-powered guns, will also be dismissed eventually again for lack of evidence.
I am not surprised that the principal argument of the Fifth Division of the Sandiganbayan was lack of evidence since the latter was extremely important in proving the guilt of the accused in graft charges, or any cases for that matter.
This lack of evidence used by the Sandiganbayan on Ejercito’s case was not the first time to happen in a series of cases that the anti-graft court made its decisions.
The court, likewise, did so on cases involving big guns in the government.
And these corruption cases were well-covered by the media simply because the people involved were known big guns in Philippine politics, like Joseph Victor Ejercito who is the son of Manila Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada, a veteran in Philippine politics.
Mayor Estrada himself was booted out from the Presidency through a people power in January 2001 due to accusations of massive corruption.
Later on, Estrada was found guilty of plunder by the Sandiganbayan.
The administration of then Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, I suppose, was strongly determined to prove that Estrada was guilty of plunder, thus, the government lawyers have indeed done their part to produce the necessary pieces of evidence to prove that Estrada was a plunderer beyond reasonable doubt.
The rest was history.
However, the trend of the Sandiganbayan’s decision under the Duterte administration against powerful people in the government appeared to be different.
The Sandiganbayan have acquitted former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, former Makati City Mayor Elenita Binay, former agriculture Secretary Luis “Chito” Lorenzo, former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn “Jocjoc” Bolante, and so on.
The Sandiganbayan asserted that the state prosecutors failed to prove that they were guilty on the charges slapped on them.
I am not a lawyer, but I read, evaluated, and studied the pertinent arguments to pin down Arroyo, Binay, Lorenzo, Bolante, and their cohorts in the corruption charges.
I was convinced that the arguments and pieces of evidence were not strong enough to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Arroyo, Binay, Lorenzo, Bolante, and others were corrupt.
I was extremely disappointed because the corruption charges filed against them have “strong” evidence, according to the Office of the Ombudsman.
The biggest majority of the public gave the Aquino administration high-rating because of its seriousness and determination to send the corrupt and plunderer to the jail and banned them for life in holding public office.
To prove that then President Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III was serious fighting graft and corruption, he appointed no-none sense former Supreme Court Associate Justice Conchita Carpio Morales to head the Office of the Ombudsman.
Morales proved her worth when she paraded pieces of evidence before the Senate (acting as Impeachment Court) that convinced a big number of Senators that then Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona had used his post to enrich himself.
Unfortunately, Corona died later on, thus, we do not know if the “strong” evidence the Office of the Ombudsman turned over to the Sandiganbayan was indeed strong.
The acquittal of Arroyo, Binay, Lorenzo, Bolante, and others where millions if not billions of public funds were involved is indeed alarming.
The dismissals were concrete proof that there is a problem with the judiciary.
The public have the right to know why the strong cases against the likes of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Elenita Binay, Luis Lorenzo, and Jocelyn “Jocjoc” Bolante were acquitted?
The public have the right to know why the claims of the Office of the Ombudsman that they got strong cases against the big guns in the government whom I mentioned have turned out to be extremely weak?
Most importantly, the public have the right to know if millions changed hands among the prosecutors.
The Supreme Court has to conduct an honest-to-goodness investigation on the issue precisely to ascertain who are the criminals in the judiciary.