• Negros Oriental gov faces graft

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    The Office of the Ombudsman has found sufficient grounds to file charges before the Sandiganbayan against Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo and two other officials in connection with the awarding of P143.2 million infrastructure projects to contractors despite lack of funds.

    The charges include 11 counts of malversation through falsification and one count of violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

    Likewise indicted were Provincial Treasurer Danilo Mendez and Provincial Accountant Teodorico Reyes.

    The Ombudsman on Tuesday said that the charges stemmed from the alleged illegal use of calamity fund which was intended for the repair, rehabilitation and construction of structures damaged by Typhoon Sendong in 2011 and the 6.9-magnitude earthquake in 2012.

    Upon Degamo’s request, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) issued a Special Allotment and Release Order (SARO) in the amount of P961.5 million.

    Of the amount, P480.7 million was immediately released to the provincial government.

    The DBM later informed Degamo that the SARO was being withdrawn because of the province’s failure to comply with the guidelines for infrastructure projects.

    Despite notice, the respondents allegedly proceeded to award the infrastructure deals.

    The Ombudsman further said that the Commission on Audit (COA) issued 11 Notices of Disallowance after it observed that funds were certified available despite the withdrawal of the SARO.

    “[T]heir unilateral act of ignoring DBM’s authority is indicative of bad faith, manifest partiality and/or gross inexcusable negligence which caused undue injury to the government,” Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said.

    Under the rules, respondents have the opportunity to file motion for reconsideration on the Ombudsman’s ruling.

    Section 3(e) of the anti-graft law prohibits public officials from causing undue injury to any party, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of their official administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.

    On the other hand, malversation is committed by any public officer accountable for public funds or property who shall appropriate the same, or shall take or misappropriate or shall consent, or through abandonment or negligence, shall permit any other person to take such public funds or property, wholly or partially.

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