Ombudsman dismisses Negros Oriental governor for grave misconduct
MANILA, Philippines — The Office of the Ombudsman has issued another dismissal order against Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo, this time over the alleged anomalous release of P10-million worth of the provincial government's intelligence fund in 2013.
In a decision recently signed by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, Degamo was found guilty of administrative offense of grave misconduct.
Aside from his dismissal from service, Morales also ordered Degamo's perpetual disqualification from holding public office, cancellation of his civil service eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits and disqualification from taking civil service examination.
The ombudsman had earlier issued two dismissal orders against Degamo in connection with the alleged misuse of the provincial government's calamity fund in 2012 amounting P480 million. Degamo, however, managed to secure a temporary restraining order from the Court of Appeals.
In its new dismissal order, the ombudsman said its investigation revealed that Degamo, in October 2012, submitted to the Sangguniang Panglalawigan or Provincial Board the provincial government's proposed budget for 2013 which included of P10 million worth of calamity fund.
Ombudsman records show that the SP enacted an appropriation ordinance on Jan. 15, 2013 but the P10 million intelligence fund was deleted.
In response, Degamo allegedly tendered his veto questioning the non-inclusion of intelligence fund in the 2013 budget. The ombudsman said the veto “was not overridden by the SP” but the P10 million intelligence fund was still not included in the 2013 budget.
Degamo also allegedly issued a memorandum on April 15, 2013 directing the released of the P10 million intelligence fund “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.
The ombudsman cited a Commission on Audit Regional Office report which supposedly states that the “cash advance was made in the absence of an approved appropriation ordinance” in violation of the Local Government Code and Government Auditing Code.
“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,” the ombudsman's decision read.
Morales directed the Department of the Interior and Local Government to implement the dismissal order.
Degamo is currently under a 90-day preventive suspension for criminal cases in connection with the alleged misuse of P143.2-million calamity fund in 2012.
The Sandiganbayan on September 22 of this year ordered Degamo's 90-day suspension in connection with his pending cases of one count of graft and 11 counts of the complex crime of malversation of public funds through falsification of public documents under the Revised Penal Code
Filed by the ombudsman in January of this year, the cases stemmed from the awarding of 11 infrastructure contracts totaling P143.2 million.
The ombudsman said the contracts were awarded by Degamo and his co-accused, former provincial treasurer Danilo Mendez and former provincial accountant Teodorico Reyes, despite a notice from the Department of Budget and Management that it has already recalled the Special Allotment Release Order for the project due to the provincial government's failure to comply with the requirements and guidelines.
The infrastructure project was supposed to be for the areas in Negros Oriental heavily hit by Typhoon Sendong in December 2011 and by a 6.9-magnitude earthquake in February 2012.
The ombudsman said the irregularity of the awarding of contracts was further established after the Commission on Audit issued 11 Notices of Disallowance, observing that the funds were certified as “available” despite the recall of the SARO.