SC affirms dismissal of charges vs ex-DMB usec

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The Supreme Court junked the petition of­­­­ Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo questioning graft probers’ dismissal of the usurpation of authority charges lodged against Budget undersecretary Mario Relampagos.

In a 13-page decision, the SC affirmed the assailed April 19, 2013 resolution of the Ombudsman which “without proof that [the Ombudsman] acted with grave abuse of discretion,” it “shall not interfere with public respondent’s determination of probable cause.”

The case stemmed from the P480.775-million worth of Special Allotment and Release Order (SARO) released by DBM in lieu of the P961.550-M originally requested by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council to the Negros Oriental province in 2012 to pay for infrastructure projects in Negros Oriental, which was then reeling from the devastation of Typhoon Sendong and a magnitude 6.9 earthquake.

Upon instructions of then Budget secretary Florencio Abad, Relampagos eventually withdrew the SARO for non-compliance with guidelines on large-scale fund releases for infrastructure projects.

In his complaint before the Ombudsman, Degamo alleged that when Relampagos wrote the letter-advice withdrawing the SARO, the latter “falsely posed himself to have been authorized by then president Aquino” and “usurped the official functions of the Executive Secretary, who had the sole authority to write and speak for and on behalf of the President.”

Affirming the Ombudsman, the SC held that Relampagos did not commit the crime of usurpation of authority explaining that he “did not maliciously represent himself as an agent, officer, or representative of the government.” It held that Relampagos was in fact a public official himself, being DBM undersecretary for operations, whom the Ombudsman had found to have signed the letter in his own name and under the words, “By Authority of the Secretary.”

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