Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo on Wednesday filed graft charges with the Department of Justice (DOJ) against officials and investigators of the Office of the Ombudsman who ordered his dismissal over his alleged misuse of calamity funds.
The governor accused Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Paul Elmer Clemente, Deputy Ombudsman for the Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices Cyril Ramos, and graft investigators Laurrei Layne Cristobal, Anna Francesca Limbo, Maria Bernadeth Andal-Subaan and Amy Rose Soler-Rellin of violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act 3019).
Under Section 3(e), public officials are prohibited from causing any undue injury to any party, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.
Degamo was ordered dismissed twice over the alleged illegal use of calamity funds for the province’s infrastructure projects worth P480 million in 2012.
The first dismissal order was set aside by the Court of Appeals Special Fifth Division on August 30, 2016.
The Ombudsman, however, filed a second complaint against Degamo as well as ordered his dismissal based on the same facts but with different complainants.
Degamo turned again to the CA which issued on February 13 a 60-day temporary restraining order stopping his dismissal.
The governor leaned on the so-called Aguinaldo doctrine that pardons a public official’s administrative offense if he gets re-elected.
That doctrine was already abandoned by the Supreme Court in 2015 but Degamo insisted that he was still covered by it, considering the allegations took place years prior to the high tribunal’s ruling.
“[T]here was an undue injury committed by the respondents to the complainant by dismissing him twice based on the same facts, despite the fact that from June 2012, the people of Negros Oriental has condoned complainant also twice, by electing him as governor during the 2013 and 2016 elections,” the complaint stated.
“Still in the second case, this time filed by Field Investigation Office and Jessica Jane Villanueva-Koppin, based on the same facts, again dismissed complainant (Degamo) from office despite the fact that the Court of Appeals has already declared that based on the same sets of facts, the condonation doctrine still applies to the complainant. Such acts of respondents is even contemptuous for blatantly disregarding a court decision,” it added.
According to the Ombudsman, the Department of Budget and Management issued a Special Allotment and Release Order (SARO) for P961.5 million on June 5, 2012 in response to Degamo’s request for funds for the rehabilitation of infrastructure in the province damaged by the Typhoon Sendong, which occurred in December 2011, and the magnitude-6.9 earthquake that happened in February the following year.
Of the P961.5 million calamity fund, P480.7 million was immediately released to the provincial government. However, on June 19, 2012, the DBM informed Degamo that the SARO was being withdrawn due to the failure of the province to comply with existing guidelines for infrastructure projects.
The issuance of a negative SARO meant the provincial government’s projects were no longer supported by appropriation and allotment.
Despite the notice, Degamo and other provincial government officials proceeded to award 11 infrastructure contracts amounting to P143.2 million representing the 15 percent advance payment to contractors.
The Commission on Audit later issued 11 Notices of Disallowance because the local government certified the funds as available despite the SARO’s withdrawal.
Degamo posted bail for the second case before the Sandiganbayan on January 27. —NB, GMA News