CA issues TRO vs. Ombudsman dismissal of NegOr guv

MANILA -- The Court of Appeals (CA) blocked the implementation of the dismissal order issued by the Office of the Ombudsman against Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo in connection with the alleged anomalous use of the local government's PHP10-million intelligence fund in 2013.

The CA Visayas Station in Cebu City released a resolution on Monday which imposes a 60-day temporary restraining order (TRO) granting the urgent relief sought in the petition filed by Degamo, who was found guilty of grave misconduct by the anti-graft office and charged for violation of Section 3 (e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act before the Sandiganbayan.

This is the third dismissal order issued by the Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales against Degamo last month. The CA had downgraded the first dismissal while it issued a temporary restraining order on the second one in 2016.

The two previous cases stemmed from the alleged illegal disbursement of PHP143.2 million worth of calamity funds, both of which are pending at the Sandiganbayan.

Degamo's lawyer Manuelito Luna said the TRO allows his client to return to the top post in the provincial capitol.

In filing the petition, the governor accused the Ombudsman of committing grave abuse of discretion when it did not apply the condonation doctrine in the case considering that he was reelected as governor in the 2013 polls.

The Supreme Court had voided the condonation doctrine in the case against former Vice President Jejomar Binay in 2015, but in proactive application.

Degamo further argued that the dismissal order had no basis since the PHP10-million fund was already settled and accounted for as shown by the Notice of Settlement issued on May 30, 2017 by the Commission on Audit.

Based on the findings of the Ombudsman, Degamo submitted the province's proposed 2013 budget in October 2012 to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) which included intelligence expenses worth PHP10 million.

The board approved the budget but omitted the intelligence fund. Degamo then questioned the amount's "deletion or non-inclusion of the item on confidential/intelligence fund, which veto was not overridden by the SP on January 15, 2013.

Three months later, Degamo issued a memorandum ordering the release of the PHP10 million "without further delay."

The Ombudsman said the fund was released on April 16, 2013 to the office of Degamo through a cash advance for the payment of expenses of intelligence-related operations.

However, a report from the Commission on Audit's regional office found 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 echoed the COA's findings saying the appropriation "does not contain any item on confidential/intelligence fund, the release of the cash advance in the amount of PHP10 million was not supported by the necessary appropriation.

Morales said Degamo clearly violated the two government codes, saying the governor had a willful intent to violate the law when he insisted on the appropriation of the PHP10 million.

Source: Philippine News Agency