Negros Oriental gov faces new raps for P480M calamity fund mess
06 January 2017
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has found probable cause to indict Negros Oriental governor Roel Degamo for 11 counts of violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for the illegal disbursement of calamity funds used to pay for the province’s infrastructure projects in 2012. The charges stemmed from the illegal use of the calamity fund intended for the repair, rehabilitation and construction of structures damaged by natural calamities.
Also facing 11 counts of graft are Provincial Treasurer Danilo Mendez, Provincial Accountant Teodorico Reyes and Provincial Engineer Franco Alpuerto. Mendez and Reyes were also indicted for 11 counts of Falsification of Public Documents.
The Ombudsman also ordered the filing of graft charges against Alejandro Lim, Jr. of Lim General Contractor Corporation, Mark Anthony Clemente of CTC Builders and Supplies, Inc. Danny Chan of AJAN Jeada, Inc., Wilfredo Chu of Bigfoot Construction and Supply, Farouk Macarambon of Fiat Construction Services, Maribel Ranola of Legazpi Premium Development Corporation and Ricardo Abriol Santos of Richmark Construction and Supply.
The results of the preliminary investigation revealed that in December 2011 Degamo requested assistance for the rehabilitation of the province’s infrastructure damaged by the December 2011 Typhoon Sendong and the 6.9 earthquake that happened in February 2012. On 05 June 2012, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) issued a Special Allotment and Release Order (SARO) in the amount of P961.5million, out of which P480.7million was immediately released to the provincial government. However, a few days later, or on 19 June 2012, the DBM informed Degamo that the SARO was being withdrawn due to the failure of the province to comply with existing guidelines for infrastructure projects. Technically, with the issuance of a negative SARO, the projects of the province were no longer supported by appropriation and allotment.
Despite the notice, Degamo, et. al. proceeded to award the 11 infrastructure contracts amounting to P143.2 million, representing the 15% advance payment to contractors. Upon audit, the Commission on Audit issued 11 Notices of Disallowance, observing that funds were certified available despite the withdrawal of the SARO.
Degamo failed to file any counter-affidavit to controvert the charges.
Based on the approved Resolution, it was explained that “respondents unilaterally ignored the DBMs directive and continued to award 11 infrastructure projects.”
According to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, “if respondents had reservations on the legality of the withdrawal of the positive SARO, they could have asked a higher executive authority or secured a judicial directive allowing them to retain control of the funds released to the province. This, respondents failed to do.”
Under Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019, 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. ###