MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan acquitted Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito and 14 co-accused of technical malversation charges filed against them over the use of San Juan City’s calamity fund to purchase firearms for the local government’s use in 2008.
The August 10 decision of the anti-graft court’s sixth division granted the demurer of evidence — a motion to dismiss for lack of evidence — submitted by Ejercito and his co-accused:
Leonardo Celles, Andoni Miguel Carballo, Vincente Rainer Pacheco, Angelino Mendoza, Dante Santiago, Rolando Bernardo, Grace Pardines, Domingo Sese, Francis Keith Peralta, Edgardo Soriano, Jannah Ejercito-Surla, Francisco JavierZamora, Ramon Nakpil, Joseph Christopher Torralba.
The anti-graft court also lifted the hold departure order it had issued against them.
The case alleged that the P2.1 million used to buy three Daewoo K2 caliber 5.56mm sub-machineguns and 17 Daewoo K1 sub-machineguns was sourced from San Juan’s calamity fund “for a purpose different from which such fund was intended and appropriated by law or ordinance.”
Ejercito was San Juan mayor at the time of the transaction.
The demurer of evidence argued that the prosecution failed to prove that the city’s calamity fund was the source of the money to pay for the weapons.
The sixth division agreed.
“In view of the insufficiency of the prosecution’s evidence, both testimonial and documentary, to establish the liability of the herein accused … the Court finds no more reason to hold them for further trial under the present indictment,” the decision by Associate Justices Rodolfo Ponferrada, Karl Miranda and Michael Frederick Musngi said.
“Let it be stressed that this verdict of acquittal is based on the failure of the prosecution to present proof beyond reasonable doubt that the accused indeed used the 2008 calamity fund of San Juan City in the procurement and payment of the subject firearms,” it said.
A separate concurring decision by Miranda, on the other hand, noted that even if the calamity fund was used to buy the weapons, the transaction would still comply with the law since it was undertaken in response to Resolution No. 23, series of 2008, passed by the San Juan city council “declaring an imminent danger of disaster, and authorizing disaster preparedness measures and use of the calamity fund.”
“In this case, the accused allowed the purchase of firearms in response to the surge of bank robberies in neighboring cities and the corresponding need to protect the city and its people from acts that would “disrupt or damage the current peace and order situation,” Miranda noted.
READ THE FULL TEXT OF THE DECISION BY THE SANDIGANBAYAN 6TH DIVISION: