Sandiganbayan denies governor’s bid to dismiss graft case | Inquirer News

Sandiganbayan denies governor’s bid to dismiss graft case

/ 12:13 PM July 16, 2017

Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo. Photo from the official website of the province of Negros Occidental

The Sandiganbayan will proceed with the trial of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo over the unauthorized use of P143 million in calamity funds to repair infrastructure damaged by typhoon and an earthquake in 2012.

Degamo had sought the dismissal of the charges for the Office of the Ombudsman’s alleged inordinate delay in conducting a preliminary investigation and filing of the case against him.


In a 34-page resolution dated July 13, the anti-graft court’s Special Third Division denied Degamo’s plea. It said the Ombudsman only took two years, nine months and five days from the filing of the complaint on Oct. 29, 2013, until the case reached the court on Aug. 3, 2016.

Through the same resolution, the court also stopped provincial legal office officer-in-charge Richard Enojo from representing Degamo, provincial treasurer Danilo Mendez and provincial accountant Teodorico Reyes in the case.


The three officials are set to stand trial for one count of violating Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and 11 counts of malversation through falsification.

In throwing out Degamo’s motion to dismiss, the Sandiganbayan did not consider the period spent by the Ombudsman in investigating and filing the case to be “vexatious, capricious and/or oppressive.” Thus, the court said it did not violate the accused’s right to the speedy disposition of their cases. It also found the length of time to be warranted given the uniqueness of the case.

Unique situation

“It cannot be denied that the Office of the Ombudsman needed time to thoroughly review and evaluate the bases of the complaint,” the court’s resolution said.

The court noted that Mendez and Reyes sought the deferment of the preliminary investigation as they appealed the Commission on Audit’s notices of disallowance on the infrastructure projects.

Likewise, the court junked the separate appeal on the Jan. 24 resolution denying an earlier motion for judicial determination of probable cause. It said there was sufficient basis to think the accused were “probably guilty” of the criminal charges and should be subject to trial.

In his motion, Degamo cited the August 30 decision of the Court of Appeals that overturned their dismissal by the Ombudsman and absolved them of administrative liability.


But the Sandiganbayan, said the administrative case of the accused had no bearing on its criminal aspect.

“It should be stressed that the basis of administrative liability differs from criminal liability,” the Sandiganbayan said. It added that it cannot be bound by the CA’s findings since this would violate the independent nature of administrative and criminal cases.

Government attorney can’t act as counsel

Meanwhile, the court ordered provincial attorney Enojo to desist from appearing as counsel for Degamo, Mendez and Reyes.

This was after Ombudsman prosecutors complained that his participation “goes against the Government,” pointing out that the Negros Oriental provincial legal officer “has the primary duty and loyalty to the said province and not to the provincial governor.”

The court said Section 481(b) of the Local Government Code only allows the provincial legal officer to represent officials involved in their capacities in civil actions and special proceedings, not criminal cases.

“The Local Government Code does not authorize the provincial or city legal officer to appear in criminal cases for local government officials who are indicted for acts/omissions committed in the discharge of their official functions,” read the resolution.

Presiding Justice Amparo M. Cabotaje-Tang penned the resolution, with the concurrence of Associate Justices Sarah Jane T. Fernandez and Zaldy V. Trespeses.

Degamo is enjoying provisional liberty after posting P1.115 million bail.

The case arose from the provincial government’s award of 11 infrastructure contracts worth P143.2 million, even after the Department of Budget and Management had withdrawn the special allotment release order, or SARO, that provided funding for the projects.

The money was meant for the repair of infrastructure damaged by typhoon Sendong in December 2011 and a 6.9-magnitude earthquake in February 2012.

The Department of Budget and Management told Degamo that the SARO was being withdrawn over the province’s failure to comply with guidelines for infrastructure projects.

Instead of complying and returning the funds, Degamo proceeded with the award of the 11 infrastructure contracts. The Commission on Audit later issued 11 notices of disallowance, but these orders are still under appeal. CBB/rga

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TAGS: Calamity Fund, Graft, inordinate delay, Negros Oriental, News, Ombudsman, Roel Degamo, Sandiganbayan
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