Ombudsman dismisses Negros Oriental governor for grave misconduct

December 7, 2017 - 5:52 PM
File photo of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo from the Facebook page of the Provincial Government of Negros Oriental

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines — Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo has been ordered dismissed from public service by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales for grave misconduct over the allegedly anomalous use of the province’s 2013 budget.

The governor will also be permanently disqualified from public office and forfeit all his retirement benefits.

Morales also ordered charges for violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act filed against Degamo, who is currently serving a 90-day preventive suspension for a different case, the allegedly irregular use of Negros Oriental’s P460-million calamity fund.

The suspension order was served October 18 and the vice governor, Edward Mark Macias, has been acting governor since then.

The Department of Interior and Local Government has been directed to implement Degamo’s dismissal.

Degamo’s dismissal stems from an order he issued on April 15, 2013 ordering the release of the province’s P10-million intelligence fund “without further delay.” The next day, the funds were released to Degamo as a cash advance.

The provincial board had earlier disapproved of the intelligence fund’s inclusion in the proposed 2013 budget Degamo had submitted to the body in October 2012. However, the board did not override the governor’s veto of the non-inclusion of the intelligence fund.

However, the Commission on Audit later said that “the “cash advance was made in the absence of an approved appropriation ordinance in violation of Section 305(a) of the Local Government Code and Section 4(1) of the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines.”

The Ombudsman also ruled that “as appropriation ordinance no. 1, series of 2013, does not contain any item on confidential/intelligence fund, the release of the cash advance in the amount of P10 million was not supported by the necessary appropriation” in violation of both the Local Government Code and the Government Auditing Code that “provide that no money shall be paid out of the local treasury except in pursuance of an appropriations ordinance or law.”

Morales said Degamo’s insistence on the release of the money “despite the apparent absence of the necessary appropriation is thus a clear badge of willful intent to violate the laws and established rules.”

On June 17, Degamo had also been served a dismissal order for the misuse of the calamity fund but managed to secure a temporary restraining order. The Court of Appeals had, however, dismissed an administrative case against the governor over the same issue.

The money was intended for the rehabilitation of infrastructure damaged by typhoon Sendong in December 2011 and the 6.9-magnitude earthquake in February 2012.

The Department of Budget and Management withdrew the Special Allotment and Release Order for the funds because of local officials’ failure to comply with the guidelines for infrastructure projects.

Despite this, Degamo and other officials proceeded to implement he projects, for which the COA issues 11 notices of disallowance.