By Czarina Nicole Ong-Ki
The Sandiganbayan Fourth Division has convicted former Laguna Governor Emilio Ramon Pelayo “E.R.” Ejercito of graft in connection with the anomalous insurance deal that the Pagsanjan municipal government entered into with private company First Rapids Care Ventures (FRCV) back in 2008.
Ejercito was sentenced to six to eight years imprisonment with perpetual disqualification from holding public office.
Ejercito, whose screen name is Jeorge Ejercito Estregan, was charged with violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019, also known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act due to a violation he committed when he was still municipal mayor of Pagsanjan.
On October 23, 2008, Ejercito and former vice mayor Crisostomo B. Vilar, councilors Arlyn Lazaro-Torres, Terryl Gamit-Talabong, Kalahi Rabago, Erwin Sacluti, Gener Dimaranan, and Ronaldo Sablan reportedly conspired with FRCV owner Marilyn Bruel.
They entered into a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with FRCV to provide accident protection and financial assistance to Pagsanjan tourists and legitimate and qualified boatmen plying the route to and from the Pagsanjan Gorge Tourist Zone.
The insurance covered loss of life, disablement, medical reimbursement, and ambulance or hospital transfer reimbursement. However, the accused entered into the MOA without undergoing the requisite public bidding under R.A. 9184.
At the same time, the FRCV was not licensed and in possession of a certificate of authority from the Insurance Commission to engage in the insurance business.
Vilar was acquitted of his graft charge, while the case against Sablan was dismissed due to his death. Ejercito’s other co-accused, on the other hand, were also convicted.
Ejercito was removed from his position as Laguna governor by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on May 2014 due to campaign overspending during the 2013 elections.