(UPDATE) MANILA - An anti-graft court on Tuesday suspended Senator Joseph Victor ''JV'' Ejercito for 90 days while it tackles a corruption charge against him.
Ejercito faces trial for allegedly using of P2.1 million in calamity funds to purchase of 20 high-powered firearms from HK Technical Defense System Inc. when was San Juan City mayor in 2008.
In a resolution, the Sandiganbayan ordered the preventive suspension in accordance with the Republic Act 3019 or the "Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The court said the suspension of an accused incumbent public officer with pending criminal case involving fraud upon government or public funds or property is mandatory under the law.
But Ejercito stands by his decision to purchase firearms, saying it was his "duty" as mayor to help policemen combat crime.
"Let me reiterate that as San Juan City Mayor then, I felt that it was my duty to approve the purchase of firearms for our policemen as the crime situation had simply gotten out of hand. Our police force needed more than moral support as it urgently needed firepower against criminals who virtually held the city under siege," Ejercito said.
He said while he is "saddened" by the Sandiganbayan order, he believes he "did the right thing and that justice in the end will be on my side."
Also ordered suspended are San Juan City employees Ranulfo Dacalos, city administrator, Romualdo Delos Santos,legal officer, and Danilo Mercado, special assistant on documentation and compliance of the Office of the Mayor.
The Sandiganbayan found Ejercito, Dacalos, Delos Santos, and Ching's reasons for not suspending them as "unlikely."
In their opposition, Ejercito and his co-accused argued that they do not pose threat to the unimpeded resolution of the case and their suspension will halt the progress of their current projects and advocacy.
"There will still remain 23 other senators who can meet (his priorities and advocacy in senate.) The Senate President will surely know how to deal with the problem of filling up the temporary vacancies in accordance to the provisions of the Rules of the Senate," the Sandiganbayan resolution read.
"In the same manner that Mayor Guia Gomez of the San Juan City will surely know how to deal with the absence of Dacalos, De Los Santos and Ching"
The Sandiganbayan asked the Office of the Senate President to implement the suspension order.
Ejercito may still ask the Sandiganbayan to reconsider his suspension order with 15 days upon receipt of the order.
Aside from his graft case at the Sandiganbayan 5th Division, another motion to suspend Ejercito awaits decision at the court's 6th Division where he faces a related technical malversation case.