No case vs. Negros Oriental governor, 2 others on P143-M calamity funds spent in 2012

Published February 10, 2021, 11:34 AM

by Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

The Sandiganbayan has acquitted Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Ragay Degamo and two others of their alleged misuse of P143.2 million in calamity funds in 2012.


Also cleared of graft and malversation through falsification charges were provincial treasurer Danilo Cual Mendez and provincial accountant Teodorico Guevara Reyes.

The anti-graft court ruled there is no evidence that the public funds were misappropriated for the personal use of the accused, hence, the absence of criminal intent, said the court, in a decision written by Associate Justice Bernelito R. Fernandez.

Case records showed that the calamity funds were allocated to rebuild the province after it was wrecked by Typhoon Sendong and pounded by a massive 6.9-magnitude earthquake.

The prosecution said Degamo, together Mendez and Reyes, disbursed P143,268,441.59 out of the original P480,775,000 calamity funds released to Negros Oriental.

However, the prosecution pointed out that there were actually no more funds available because the Special Allotment and Release Order (SARO) has been withdrawn by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on June 29, 2012.

The three provincial officials questioned the validity and legality of the withdrawal of the SARO, and they even wrote several letters to the Executive Secretary and then DBM Undersecretary Mario L. Relampagos about it.

“Although it is clear that the accused resolved to proceed with the subject rehabilitation projects despite the withdrawal of the subject SARO, this, however, cannot equate to evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence,” the court’s decision said.

It said the decision of the three provincial officials to proceed with the disbursement of the funds was based on a firm belief that Relampagos had no authority to unilaterally withdraw the SARO.

In acquitting Degamo and his group, the court pointed out that the funds were indeed used for the good of the province and its citizenry, and not for their personal benefit.

“In the instant case, it is clear that the public funds were used for the payment of the several contractors who have already partially or totally completed their respective projects. There is no evidence that will show that the public funds were misappropriated for the personal use of the accused, hence, the absence of criminal intent,” it said.

“To our mind, the accused meritoriously showed good faith,” it added.

Presiding Justice Amparo M. Cabotaje Tang and Associate Justie Ronald B. Moreno concurred in the decision.