Negros Oriental governor suspended for 3 months

NEGROS ORIENTAL, Philippines – Negros Oriental Governor Roel Ragay Degamo is suspended from service for 3 months starting Wednesday, October 18, for alleged misuse of calamity funds.

The preventive suspension ordered by the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan took effect Wednesday after Rene Burdeos, regional director of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), personally served the court's order.

"Such suspension order is immediately executory unless a TRO (temporary restraining order) is issued by the Supreme Court," a press statement from DILG-Negros Oriental office said.

The suspension order will be lifted automatically after the lapse of the 90-day period, it noted.

Vice Governor Edward Mark Macias assumes Degamo's post starting Wednesday, while senior Sangguniang Panlalawigan Member Maria Antonia Villegas will serve as the acting vice governor.

Degamo, in a statement released to local media, said he would accept his "temporary" fate, and would abide by the rule of law.

The preventive suspension stemmed from the criminal case lodged by Dumaguete City resident June Vincent Gaudan against the governor for alleged violation of  Article 217 in relation to Articles 171 and 48 of the Revised Penal Code.

Degamo is sued before the Sandiganbayan over alleged irregularities in the provincial government's awarding of infrastructure projects worth P480 million, the budget of which had been revoked by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) due to alleged non-compliance with project implementation rules.

DBM had allocated the said amount for the repair of public infrastructures, which were damaged by Tropical Storm Sendong (Washi) in 2011 and the 6.9-magnitude earthquake that struck Negros Oriental in 2012.

According to court records, instead of Degamo returning the funds to the national coffers, he proceeded with the awarding of 11 infrastructure contracts amounting to P480 million – an act considered as technical malversation under government auditing laws.

Degamo, 51, a mechanical engineer by profession, was elected senior provincial board member in 2010.

Shortly after the 2010 polls, he assumed as vice governor after the death of Governor Emilio Macias II. The vice governor then, Agustin Perdices, became Negros Oriental governor, but also died the same year, paving the way for Degamo to assume the governorship. –