The Court of Appeals has overturned a resolution of the Office of the Ombudsman finding reelected Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo guilty of grave misconduct for malversation of public funds.
In a 19-page decision, the CA’s Special Fifth Division ruled that Degamo was only guilty of simple misconduct contrary to the Ombudsman’s findings that he was liable for grave misconduct and ordered his dismissal from the service and with the accessory penalties of cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits and perpetual disqualification from reemployment in the government service.
The appellate court stressed that what Degamo has done clearly shows good faith on his part and that it cannot find reason that he deliberately violated the law.
“We, cannot therefore, impute deliberate and willful intent to violate the law, or flagrant disregard of an established rule on the part of the petitioner. To reiterate, petitioner Degamo had every reason to believe that his actions were morally and legally valid, and that he acted for the suffering and devastated constituents,” the CA decision penned by Associate Justice Stephen Cruz stated.
The CA held that there is no evidence to show that Degamo gave unwarranted benefits and advantage to the private contractors.
“From all the foregoing, we find no reason to charge petitioner Degamo with grave misconduct for the elements of corruption, clear intent to violate the law, or flagrant disregard of established rule are clearly and indubitable absent in the present case. At most, therefore, petitioner can only be held liable for simple misconduct,” the CA said.
The appellate court noted that even in its assailed resolution, the Ombudsman “failed to adequately explain its finding of grave misconduct,” adding that the anti-graft body made a ruling “without exhaustively discussing the elements of grave misconduct.”
Associate Justices Normandie Pizzaro and Samuel Gaerlan concurred with the ruling.
Court record showed that Degamo, along with Provincial Treasurer Danilo Mendez and Provincial Accountant Teodorico Reyes, was ordered dismissed by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, in a resolution dated March 16, for grave misconduct over the disbursement of P480 million in calamity funds intended for the repair, rehabilitation and construction of structures damaged by Typhoon “Sendong” in 2011 and the 6.9 magnitude earthquake that hit the province in 2012.
The anti-graft body also found probable cause to file malversation and graft charges against the three for proceeding to award 11 infrastructure projects worth P143.2 million despite lack of funds.
The private complainant in the case insisted that Degamo should be held liable for malversation of public funds when he failed to heed the demand of the Commission on Audit for the return of the P480 million to the National Treasury due to the negative issuance of the Special Allotment Release Order and that his failure to return the money caused undue injury to the government.
The anti-graft body sided with the complainant and approved the resolution finding that Degamo and his co-respondents are guilty of 11 counts of malversation of public funds.
This prompted Degamo to filed an appeal with the appellate court on ground that the Ombudsman committed grave abused her discretion in issuing its findings.
The also CA ruled that the Ombudsman failed to prove the existence of corruption.
“Records are bereft of any showing that petitioner used his position to procure some benefit for himself or for another person. In fact records showed that the money released to the provincial government of Negros Oriental was used strictly in accordance with the plans and specifications prepared by the office of the provincial engineer which was twice validated in the field by the Office of Civil Defense and DPWH Regional Office,” the appellate court stressed.