SC upholds dismissal of raps vs. ex-DBM Usec Relampagos

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The Supreme Court (SC) has upheld the decision of the Office of the Ombudsman to dismiss the complaint against former Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Undersecretary Mario Relampagos concerning funds failed to be released in 2012 for the reconstruction projects in Negros Oriental which was devastated by a typhoon and earthquake.

The SC has issued a decision which junked the petition of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo who questioned the Ombudsman’s April 19, 2013 and January 8, 2014 rulings which dismissed his complaint against Relampagos.

In its decision, the high court ruled that “without proof that [the Ombudsman] acted with grave abuse of discretion,” it “shall not interfere with public respondent’s determination of probable cause.”

Records showed that P480.775-million worth of Special Allotment and Release Order (SARO) was released by DBM in response to request by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council to pay for infrastructure projects in Negros Oriental which was then reeling from the devastation of typhoon Sendong and a magnitude 6.9 earthquake.

The governor Degamo complained that Relampagos, upon the instructions of then Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, withdrew the SARO for non-compliance with guidelines on large-scale fund releases for infrastructure projects.

Degamo alleged that Relampagos “falsely posed himself to have been authorized by [then] President [Benigno S.] Aquino [III]” 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.”

However, the SC pointed out Relampagos did not commit the crime of usurpation of authority since he “did not maliciously represent himself as an agent, officer, or representative of the government.”

The high court explained Relampagos was a public official himself and signed documents with the wordings “By Authority of the Secretary.”

It stated that “department secretaries may act for and on behalf of the President on matters where the President is required to exercise authority in their respective departments.”

Relampagos, who faces multiple charges before the Sandiganbayan concerning the pork barrel scam, remains a fugitive after having failed to return from his trip in the United States.