MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo faces graft charges for misusing his province’s calamity funds after the Ombudsman on Friday, January 6, found probable cause to indict him.
Degamo faces 11 counts of violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for using his calamity funds to pay for infrastructure projects in 2012.
After Typhoon Sendong hit Negros Oriental in December 2011, followed quickly by a magnitude 6.9 earthquake in February 2012, Degamo requested for assistance to repair damaged infrastructure.
The Department of Budget and Management (DMB) immediately released P480.7 million to the provincial government. The DBM, however, withdrew the Special Allotment and Release Order (SARO) for non-compliance with guidelines for infrastructure projects.
According to the preliminary investigation of the Ombudsman, a negative SARO means that projects funded by the release are no longer supported by appropriation and allotment.
It did not stop Degamo as he proceeded to award P143.2-million worth of contracts for infrastructure projects. The Commission on Audit (COA) issued Notices of Disallowance but the governor did not heed them.
“If respondents had reservations on the legality of the withdrawal of the positive SARO, they could have asked a higher executive authority or secured a judicial directive allowing them to retain control of the funds released to the province. This, respondents failed to do,” Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said in a statement.
In response, Degamo called the Ombudsman ruling “unfair.” He stressed the Court of Appeals (CA) had already dismissed the complaint in June last year, blasting Morales for continuing to argue even if there was already a decision from the CA, which is the second-highest judicial court after the Supreme Court.
Degamo also said the Ombudsman should be abolished because it can be subjected to “abuse of power,” and called for Morales to resign.
He added the CA resolution said he was not liable for misconduct as the use of funds was done in good faith.
Degamo, even after winning the elections in May 2016, was already ordered dismissed by the Ombudsman in June of the same year. But he refused to vacate his post until he managed to secure a 60-day Temporary Restraining Order (TRO).
Included in the graft charges are Provincial Treasurer Danilo Mendez, Provincial Accountant Teodorico Reyes and Provincial Engineer Franco Alpuerto. Mendez and Reyes were also indicted for 11 counts of Falsification of Public Documents.
Also facing charges apart from provincial officials are Alejandro Lim, Jr of Lim General Contractor Corporation, Mark Anthony Clemente of CTC Builders and Supplies Inc, Danny Chan of AJAN Jeada Inc, Wilfredo Chu of Bigfoot Construction and Supply, Farouk Macarambon of Fiat Construction Services, Maribel Ranola of Legazpi Premium Development Corporation, and Ricardo Abriol Santos of Richmark Construction and Supply. – Lian Buan and Marchel Espina/Rappler.com
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