SANTA ROSA CITY — Embattled Laguna gubernatorial candidate Emilio Ramon “ER” Ejercito III this week called his Sandiganbayan conviction “political harassment,” an “old case” that he said was meant to discredit him.
Last April 4, the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan found Ejercito, a former governor of Laguna, guilty of graft in relation to a 2008 contract that he, as mayor of Pagsanjan town, entered into witha company called First Rapids Care Ventures (FRCV).
The actor-turned-politician maintained that the project was born out of his “good intentions” to provide accident insurance coverage to Pagsanjan’s boatmen and tourists, but the Office of Ombudsman said the contract was irregular as it did not go through a public bidding.
The Ombudsman also said the FRCV, a private company owned by co-respondent Marilyn Bruel, was not authorized to sell insurance.
Also found guilty were former Pagsanjan councilors Arlyn Lazaro-Torres, Terryl Gamit-Talabong, Kalahi Rabago, Erwin Sacluti, and Gener Dimaranan.
Laguna Now tried to seek Dimaranan’s comment but he did not answer calls to his mobile phone.
“My opponents are now using this to create a public impression that I am disqualified, that I am already in jail,” said Ejercito in a phone interview on April 7. He described ruling as “fake news.”
Still in the race
Ejercito and the others were allowed to post bail of Php30,600 each.
Gloria Petalio, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) director for Calabarzon, said Ejercito remains in the May gubernatorial race until the Supreme Court rules on the case with finality. “As of this moment, (Ejercito) remains a candidate,” Petalio said.
Ejercito said his lawyer, Larry Gadon, who brought the impeachment complaint against former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and is also vying for a Senate seat, would appeal the ruling before the Sandiganbayan. He said he was also ready to elevate the case to the Supreme Court.
A nephew of deposed president and now Manila City mayor Joseph Estrada, Ejercito was elected governor in 2010. He was unseated in 2014 after the Comelec said he was disqualified from the 2013 elections for campaign overspending. This paved the way for Ejercito’s vice governor, Ramil Hernandez, to take over.
In the 2016 elections, Hernandez ran and won against Ejercito. The Sandiganbayan, in the same election year, had ordered Ejercito arrested over the same insurance case. Ejericto had also posted P30,000 bail that year. (Laguna Now)