MANILA - Senator Joseph Victor ''JV'' Ejercito on Monday pleaded not guilty to graft in connection with the allegedly anomalous use of P2.1 million of San Juan City's calamity funds to purchase high-powered firearms.
The Sandiganbayan's Fifth Division earlier ordered the arrest of Ejercito and five others for their graft cases. The senator has since posted bail.
READ: JV Ejercito posts bail, says Zamoras behind case
Ejercito told reporters he is confident that the case will be dismissed.
"I don't want this delayed any further, tapusin na natin kasi we are very very confident with the evidence that we have. Kapag hindi ka guilty walang takot eh, so gusto ko na matapos na ito," Ejercito said.
His co-defendants, former members of the Bids and Awards Committee Ranulfo Dacalos, Rosalinda Marasigan, Romualdo Delos Santos, Lorenza Ching, and Danilo Mercado have entered a not guilty plea as well.
The case stems from the purchase of 20 high-powered firearms from HK Technical Defense System Inc. using San Juan City's calamity funds when Ejercito was mayor in 2008. The purchase included three units of Daewoo K2 caliber 5.56mm sub-machine guns and 17 units of Daewoo model K1 cal. 5.56mm sub-machines guns.
Ejercito was also charged with illegal use of public funds, along with 14 other individuals, in the Sandiganbayan Sixth Division over the same case.
His co-respondents in this case are San Juan City Vice Mayor and mayoral candidate Francisco Zamora, former Vice-Mayor Leonardo Celles, then city councilors Andoni Carballo, Vincent Pacheco, Angelino Mendoza, Dante Santiago, Rolando Bernardo, Grace Pardines, Domingo Sese, Francis Peralta, Edgardo Soriano, Janna Ejercito-Surla, Ramon Nakpil, and Joseph Torralba.
Ejercito earlier accused the Zamora clan of manipulating the councilors to press the charges against him. This is despite the fact that Vice Mayor Francis Zamora is also a defendant on the case before the Sixth Division.
The Zamora family, the Ejercitos' erstwhile political ally, is now a rival in the May elections. Mayor Guia Gomez is running against Vice Mayor Francis Zamora for mayor.
Ejercito has maintained his innocence, saying he only acted on what he thought was needed by the city.