The Office of the Ombudsman found basis to file graft charges before the Sandiganbayan against Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo and several others over the allegedy illegal disbursement of calamity funds for the province’s infrastructure projects in 2012.
Also facing indictment are then-Provincial Treasurer Danilo Mendez, then-Provincial Accountant Teodorico Reyes and then-Provincial Engineer Franco Alpuerto, as well as private individuals Alejandro Lim Jr., Mark Anthony Clemente, Danny Chan, Wilfredo Chu, Farouk Macarambon, Maribel Ranola and Ricardo Abriol Santos.
The Ombudsman also filed falsification charges against Mendez and Reyes.
In a statement issued on Friday, the Ombudsman said it found that Degamo sought assistance for the rehabilitation of infrastructure damaged by Typhoon Sendong in 2011 and an earthquake in February 2012.
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) issued a Special Allotment Release Order (Saro) amounting to P961.5 million in June 2012, out of which P480.7 million was immediately released to the provincial government.
The Saro is a document which, when obligated by the DBM, leads to the issuance of a Notice of Cash Allocation for the release of funds for the projects.
A few days after the issuance of Saro, the DBM informed Degamo that it was being withdrawn because the province failed to comply with guidelines for infrastructure projects.
But “respondents unilaterally ignored the DBM’s directive and continued to award 11 infrastructure projects,” the Ombudsman’s resolution said.
The 11 contracts totalled P143.2 million representing the 15-percent advance payment to contractors, according to the office.
Upon audit, the Commission on Audit issued 11 notices of disallowance as it observed that funds were certified available even after the SARO was recalled.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales said, “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.”