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Ombudsman orders Negros Oriental gov dismissed

DUMAGUETE CITY—Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales has ordered the dismissal from the service of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo, provincial treasurer Danilo Mendez and provincial accountant Teodorico Reyes for grave misconduct in connection with the disbursement of calamity funds.

But Degamo is appealing the order and may yet be spared from its enforcement as a result of the so-called Aguinaldo Doctrine.

In a resolution dated March 16, the Ombudsman also ordered the cancelation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits and perpetual disqualification from government service of the three provincial officials.

The Ombudsman also found probable cause to file 11 counts of malversation of public funds through falsification and for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act against the three at the antigraft court Sandiganbayan.

Of the three officials, only Degamo’s penalty could not be implemented because of his election in 2013.

Under the Aguinaldo Doctrine, reelection extinguishes the administrative liability of an elective official.

Degamo, Reyes and Mendez have appealed the decision of the Ombudsman.

The governor told reporters on Tuesday that reports about his supposed dismissal from the service were mere propaganda to discredit his administration.

Provincial Attorney Richard Enojo said the Ombudsman’s order was not final yet since it could still be brought to the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.

The case stemmed from the complaint filed by June Vincent Manuel Gaudan, a resident of Barangay Taclobo, over the disbursement made by the three officials of P480 million in calamity funds.

The amount was released by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to Negros Oriental after Typhoon “Sendong” damaged parts of the province in 2011, followed by the  6.9-magnitude earthquake in February 2012.

Records showed that the calamity fund was disbursed to contractors, even though the DBM had revoked the special allotment release order (Saro) for the fund release.

Then Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos withdrew the Saro on June 19, 2012, saying the province had not yet complied with guidelines on release of funds for infrastructure projects worth P10 million and more.

Projects worth above P10 million require approval from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to determine if the recipient is capable of implementing the project.

Carmela Fernan, then DBM Central Visayas director, issued a negative Saro on June 29, 2012, withdrawing the release of the calamity fund and demanding the return of the P480 million.

Instead of returning the money, Degamo, Mendez and Reyes released the money to the contractors for river control projects and the repair of spillways and bridges that were damaged by Sendong and the earthquake.

Mendez was chair of the bids and awards committee, which recommended the awarding of the projects to the winning contractors.

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