The appropriations committee of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) has decided to exclude the budget allocation for the Office of Governance, Accountability and Review (OGAR) for the year 2024, effectively abolishing the controversial anti-corruption body created by Bohol Governor Aris Aumentado.
The SP Committee on Appropriations, chaired by Vice Governor Dionisio Victor Balite, approved the entire provincial government budget for 2024, amounting to P4.2 billion, minus the P7.6 million budget for OGAR, in its committee report this week.
The committee report will be presented for second reading in the next SP session on Tuesday.
All the members of the committee, namely Board Members Aldner Damalerio, Gloria Gementiza, Atty. Tomas Abapo, Atty. Jamie Villamor, Tita Baja and committee vice-chair Romulo Cepedoza, voted to scrap the budget of OGAR.
This comes after the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 2, presided by Judge Jennifer Chavez-Marcos, declared two executive orders issued by Aumentado as unconstitutional and void in a court decision dated October 31, 2023.
The executive orders, namely EO No. 2 dated July 30, 2022 and EO No. 2-A dated December 16, 2022, established and expanded the coverage of OGAR, a body composed of five members (led by former Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco) appointed by the governor, with the power to investigate, audit, review and recommend actions on any matter involving the provincial government and its officials and employees.
The court decision was in response to a petition filed by Larry Pamugas, former officer-in-charge of the provincial agriculture office, who challenged the legality of OGAR and its actions against him.
The court has ruled that the executive orders violated the principle of separation of powers, the doctrine of local autonomy, the Civil Service Law, the Local Government Code, and the Constitution.
RTC Judge Marcos ordered the respondents, including Aumentado, OGAR members, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), to cease and desist from implementing the executive orders and to restore the status quo ante of the petitioners.
The court decision was hailed by the petitioners and their supporters as a victory for justice and democracy.
OGAR, on the other hand, has been criticized by individuals belonging to the political opposition of the province.
They accused OGAR of being a tool of political harassment, intimidation, and witch-hunt, and of usurping the functions of the Commission on Audit (COA), the Ombudsman, and the Civil Service Commission (CSC).
They also questioned the qualifications, credibility, and impartiality of the OGAR members, some of whom were former political allies or appointees of Aumentado.
Aumentado, however, defended OGAR as a necessary measure to ensure good governance, accountability, and reform in the provincial government.
The governor said OGAR was not meant to persecute anyone, but to protect the public interest and the welfare of the Boholanos.
He vowed to appeal the court decision and to continue his fight against corruption and inefficiency in the province.
Meanwhile, Aumentado supporters have expressed their criticism on the SP for scrapping the OGAR budget.
They say that OGAR is the best thing that ever happened to Bohol. They also say that they will support Aumentado and OGAR no matter what.
Following the scrapping of OGAR budget, social media blogger Willy Ramasola and OGAR member, wrote a cryptic post on FB, saying: “Naay mga nag ingon nga kauban kuno sila sa atong krusada. Pero sa tinuod naa diay mga lain agenda ug hangtod ra man diay sa istorya.”
The legal team of Governor Aumentado will reportedly respond to the court decision by filing a motion for reconsideration (MR) to plead for a reversal of the order that nullified the executive orders that created OGAR.
Former Tagbilaran City Mayor Dan Lim, in a radio interview, defended OGAR as a necessary measure to introduce reform in public service.
Lim, a lawyer, said OGAR will continue to function even without budget.
Gov. Aumentado, in his State of the Province Address (SOPA), claimed that OGAR was his biggest accomplishment in his first 100 days in office and that it was a continuation of his campaign promise that earned him the support of the majority of the voters.
He said he took steps to rid the Capitol of unscrupulous people who have soiled the good reputation of Boholanos.