Ombudsman dismisses Negros Oriental Governor over budget misuse

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(File photo) Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 7) — The governor of Negros Oriental can no longer hold any government office after he was ordered dismissed Thursday by the Ombudsman for misusing ₱10 million in so-called "intelligence funds".

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales said Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo's release of the ₱10 million from the province's 2013 budget "was not supported by the necessary appropriation."

"Degamo's act of insisting for the release of the cash advance despite the apparent absence of the necessary appropriation is thus a clear badge of willful intent to violate the laws and established rules," she said in a statement.

Charges of violating Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act will be filed against Degamo, the Ombudsman said.

The dismissal of Degamo stems from an issue regarding the province's 2013 budget where ₱10 million in "intelligence funds" were paid out in the absence of approval from the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

In October 2012 Degamo submitted to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan a proposed 2013 budget that included an item for "Intelligence Expenses" worth ₱10 million.

In January 2013, the provincial government approved the province's budget, but excluded the intelligence fund. This prompted Degamo to oppose the "questionable deletion or non-inclusion" of the fund.

On April 15, 2013, Degamo issued a memorandum directing the release of ₱10 million for the intelligence fund "without further delay." The amount was released the day after, the Ombudsman's report said.

However, the Commission on Audit Regional Office determined the fund was released without proper authority. It also violated  Section 305(a) of the Local Government Code and Section 4(1) of the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines which specify that "no money shall be paid out of any public treasury except in pursuance of an appropriations ordinance or law."

The dismissal order on Degamo carries the penalties of perpetual disqualification from holding public office, cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, and a ban from taking the civil service examination.