If protecting the lives of his constituents by equipping San Juan policemen with high-powered rifles to fight off armed robbers and stem the spike of criminality is wrong, then Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito is ready to go to jail for making such executive decision.
This was the sentiment of the senator at his hearing at the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division on Monday. The case stems from his purchase of 20 high-powered rifles for the poorly-armed San Juan police force in 2008.
“I’m hoping, I’m praying for a fair and just trial,” Ejercito said. “I want to believe it’s (trial) based on merits. Dahil alam ko naman sa aking puso na wala akong naging kasalanan (Because I know in my heart that I did not do wrong).”
The firearms being questioned by prosecutors were bought through a public bidding at a time when there were bank robberies and holdups in San Juan almost every day. Two policemen were killed in one of those heists.
“Doon sa San Juan, may mga ilan nang namatay dahil sa holdapan at may dalawa na sa aming pulis ang napaslang. Kaya talagang minadali namin na magkaroon kami, makabili kami ng high-powered rifles para mapangalagaan ko ang buhay ng aking mga nasasakupan (In San Juan, several were already killed because of robberies and two of our policemen were killed. So, we rushed the purchase of high-powered rifles to protect the lives of my constituents),” Ejercito said.
“Kung ganon talaga ang magiging tadhana, kung gusto nila akong makulong, ang alam ko, napangalagaan ko ang buhay ng aking mga nasasakupan nung panahon na ‘yon. Mas gugustuhin ko na at least wala nang nadagdag pa dun sa mga napapaslang nung mga panahon na ‘yon (If that is my fate, if they want me jailed, what I know is I protected the lives of my constituents at the time. I’d rather not add to the number of those getting killed at the time),” the senator said.
The senator said the 20 firearms bought for P2 million via public bidding when he was mayor are still being used by the San Juan police force.
“Siguro naman, ‘yung halagang dalawang milyong piso, hindi ko naman sisirain ang pangalan ko para sa ganung halaga. At yung dalawang milyon na pinambili ko ng baril, wala pong nawala doon (The amount of P2 million, I will not destroy my name for that amount. And that two million used for buying guns, it was never lost),” said Ejercito.
“Di bale na lang ako ang magdusa kaysa maraming buhay ang nasawi noong mga panahon ng 2008 na laganap ang kriminalidad sa Metro Manila (I’d rather suffer than allow other lives to be lost just like in 2008 when criminality was rampant in Metro Manila),” he added.
Prosecutors are questioning Ejercito’s use of calamity funds to buy the firearms in 2008. The Commission on Audit called the attention of the mayor that the fund cannot be used for that purpose. Subsequently, the municipal government passed a supplemental budget to cover the purchase of the firearms.