Ombudsman dismisses Negros Oriental governor over P10M intel fund

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Office of the Ombudsman dismissed from service Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo after he was found guilty of grave misconduct over alleged misuse of P10 million worth of intelligence funds in 2013.

The Ombudsman also ordered the filing of a graft charge against Degamo, according to a statement released on Thursday, December 7.

Degamo had been dismissed from office before, but he secured a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the Court of Appeals in 2016 and got to continue holding office.

Last October, the Ombudsman ordered a 90-day suspension against Degamo, but for another offense. His suspension order is related to the issue of calamity funds misuse, for which he faces trial for graft and malversation before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan.

For this administrative offense, Degamo was accused of violating the local government code and the government auditing code for ordering the release of P10 million worth of intelligence funds without an appropriation.

In 2012, Degamo submitted to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) the province’s proposed budget for 2013 which included P10 million for intelligence expenses.

But in January 2013, the SP enacted an appropriation ordinance without the P10 million intel fund. 

“In response, Degamo tendered his veto on the ‘questionable deletion or non-inclusion of the item on confidential/intelligence fund, which veto was not overridden by the SP,’” the Ombudsman said.

Violation of laws

Degamo then issued a memorandum which ordered the release of the intelligence funds “without further delay.”

“Records show that the next day, a cash advance for the payment of expenses of different activities related to intelligence operation in the amount of P10 million was released to Governor Degamo,” the Ombudsman said.

However, the Commission on Audit (COA) found that the release of the funds without an appropriation ordinance is a violation of two laws: Section 305(a) of the Local Government Code and Section 4(1) of the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales found that graft was committed, and ordered the filing of charges.

“Degamo’s act of insisting for the release of the cash advance despite the apparent absence of the necessary appropriation is thus a clear badge of willful intent to violate the laws and established rules,” Morales said in her resolution.

Acting governor

Rappler called Degamo for his side but he couldn't be reached.  

Vice Governor Edward Mark Macias has been serving as the acting governor since October 19 due to Degamo's 90-day suspension.

Macias said he would wait for further instructions from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), which is tasked to serve the dismissal order.

Degamo has sued officials of the Office of the Ombudsman for graft at the Department of Justice (DOJ), accusing them of partiality in two dismissals in the past over earlier corruption charges.

Degamo is invoking the Aguinaldo doctrine, under which administrative offenses of an elected official are already deemed forgiven when the public decides to reelect him or her for another term. – with a report from Marchel Espina/Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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