Photo by Lian Buan/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo surrendered to the Sandiganbayan on Friday, January 27, two days after the anti-graft court ordered his arrest for malversation and graft charges involving the use of calamity funds in his province.
Degamo was released after posting a P1.1- million bail, nearly half of the P2.3 million originally set by the court.
The Sandiganbayan's Third Division earlier set Degamo's bail at P2.3 million – P200,000 for each of the 11 counts of malversation and P30,000 for one count of graft – but the court on Friday granted his urgent motion to reduce his bail to P1,115,000.
The court grants motions for bail reduction on the principle that high amounts can be tantamount to violating the right of an accused to bail.
The charges against Degamo stemmed from the use of P480.7-million in Special Allotment and Release Orders (SAROs) that Degamo requested in 2012 to pay for infrastructure projects in Negros Oriental. The province was then reeling from the devastation of Typhoon Sendong and a magnitude 6.9 earthquake.
The Department of Budget and Management eventually withdrew the SARO for non-compliance with guidelines for infrastructure projects. The Commission on Audit also issued notices of disallowance but Degamo ignored the orders and proceeded to award P143.2-million worth of contracts for infrastructure projects.
In an interview with reporters after posting the bail, Degamo reiterated the Court of Appeals's dismissal of the administrative charges filed against him over the same issue.
"Sinabi na ng Court of Appeals na walang criminal intent doon sa pagamit ko ng pondo ng calamity fund because during that time may kalamidad sa amin (The Court of Appeals has said that there is no criminal intent in my use of calamity funds because during that time, there was a calamity in our area)," Degamo said.
In its affirmation of the charges, the court gave no merit to the CA decision, saying that the law allows the filing of criminal charges against an accused even when administrative charges have already been dismissed.
Degamo claimed his political foes are behind the charges: "Ito ay kaso na na-i-file sa akin ng mga kalaban mo sa pulitika dahil tinalo ko lahat ng mayayaman doon sa amin (This is a case that was filed against me by my rich political rivals because I defeated them). I won without money."
Degamo's co-accused, Provincial Treasurer Danilo Mendez and Provincial Accountant Teodorico Reyes, also posted their respective P1.1 million bail. – Rappler.com