MANILA- Embattled Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo is appealing for President Rodrigo Duterte's help in resolving the issue surrounding the province's questioned disbursement of P480.7-million in calamity funds in 2012, for which he is facing a graft trial at the Sandiganbayan.
"We had a meeting in Cebu. Alam na niya 'yung problema and hopefully, makikita nila ito. I am appealing to the President and the [Executive] Secretary...'yung Department Order No. 16 ng DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) will not apply to calamity fund projects," Degamo said.
In an interview on DZMM Tuesday morning, Degamo explained that the funds in question went through the legal process and was approved and signed by then President Benigno Aquino III.
"I don't think then President Aquino [would have signed] if mayroong pagkukulang. Saka dumaan na 'yan kay Executive Secretary [Paquito] Ochoa. Saka 'yung DPWH nagpirma for favorable recommendation," he explained.
Degamo is out on a P1.115-million bail while facing trial for graft and malversation of calamity funds through falsification at the Sandiganbayan.
The charges stemmed from a P480.7-million Special Allotment and Release Order (SARO) that Degamo requested in 2012 for the repair and rehabilitation of infrastructure damaged by Typhoon Sendong and a magnitude 6.9 earthquake that hit the province.
"May budget 'yan na hiningi namin, more than P900 million. This is for the construction of river dikes and rehabilitation of dikes sa lahat ng mga ilog na nakita naming kritikal talaga 'pag may baha," Degamo said.
However, the provincial government only completed around half of the project after the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) ordered a "negative SARO" or withdrawal of the funds for non-compliance with funding guidelines.
"'Yung more than 50 percent, 'di natapos. Ako po ay natatakot kasi 'yung ibang projects, 'pag bumagyo, maaapektuhan at masisira lang 'yung project, sayang naman 'yung pera. There are 11 projects to be implemented. Lahat 'di natuloy, 50 percent lang ang natuloy. Ang nangyari, pinabawi," Degamo said.
He stressed that the funds were legally spent, adding that charges against him were politically motivated.
"Ipaglalaban ko ito because this is the right of the people of Negros Oriental, because this was approved already. We really need this project in the province. Sayang 'yung nasimulan na at masisira pa," he said.
On July 13, the Sandiganbayan Special Third Division denied Degamo's motion to dismiss charges against him for lack of merit. The 34-page decision was penned by Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang.