CA absolves Governor

The Court of Appeals six years later, has reversed the Ombudsman’s decision and downgraded the penalty of Governor Roel Degamo to simple misconduct in his refusal to return P143Million in calamity fund to the national DBM which was intended for typhoon Sendong Rehabilitation in 2011.

Earlier, the Ombudsman ordered Gov Degamo and his treasurer and accountant to be dismissed and be perpetually disqualified to run for public office for such an offense.

However, acting on the temporary restraining order TRO, the Court of Appeals in its 19-page decision dated August 30, 2016 virtually issued a permanent injunction upon Degamo and allowed him to continue holding office because he is still covered by the Aguinaldo Doctrine.

The decision was penned by Associate Justice Stephen Cruz; and concurred by Associate Justices Normandie Pizarro and Samuel Gaerlan.

This doctrine exonerates all reelected public officials of administrative and civil liabilities of all pending cases. Although this doctrine was abolished in 2015 in the Binay case, Degamo was still covered since his case was filed in 2012.

By such doctrine’s exoneration, his penalty of suspension of one to six months without pay is also absolved. The old rationale is that the people’s voice of reelecting an indicted public official implies that the citizens have forgiven him.

His criminal liability under the Sandiganbayan on this case, however, could start to crumble because of lack of substantial evidence. The Ombudsman if it will , must re-file such case if interested. But how can it pursue the case , when the Aguinaldo doctrine has been applied.

But under the new Supreme Court which abolished such doctrine starting 2015, the Court said, getting reelected these days can be bought with money, thus, the vox populi can no longer be relied upon as authentic voice of the people. Thus, henceforth, penalties must be imposed, thus, mayor Binay of Makati was dismissed.

The dismissal of the case was anchored on the fact that Degamo et al acted in good faith .Since the Notice of Cash Allotment has already been issued, it meant, money was already deposited (143M) in the name of the province, meaning, all requiremenets were already deemed complied with. Degamo also followed all rules on the bidding process.

The bureaucratic lapses claimed by the recalling DBM no longer held water because it was already made after the fact. Most of all, the issue was urgent in nature since it meant urgent rehabilitation of Sendong damaged areas of the province. The rest of the pending case in the matter of the release of P480Million as half of the approved calamity fund by then Pres PNoy is now moot and academic.

The question now is: will the balance of P480- million be released to Negros Oriental as approved? Nobody knows now under the Duterte administration.

But there is still hope because Duterte might honor the approval (of releasing the balance of P480m), since Degamo now is the chairman of the PDP LABAN of Duterte in Negros Island Region. (By Ely P. Dejaresco)

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