2022 Philippine Elections

Petitioner to Comelec: Stop Negros Oriental governor’s bid for fourth term

Dwight de Leon

FILE PHOTO. Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo in 2016.

Rappler

The petitioner alleges that Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo committed material misrepresentation in his candidacy papers by saying he is eligible for reelection

The governor of Negros Oriental, who has been in office since 2011, is facing a legal challenge amid questions as to whether he is eligible to run for a fourth consecutive term in 2022.

A petition filed before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Friday, October 29, argued that Governor Roel Degamo committed false representation when he filed his certificate of candidacy (COC), which said “I am eligible for the office I seek to be elected to.”

Petitioner Ging Dayupay, a registered voter, asserted the poll body should have Degamo’s COC canceled because of such a “material misrepresentation” in his candidacy papers.

In the Philippines, all elective local officials, except barangay officials, are subject to a three-consecutive term limit, as provided by the 1987 Constitution.

Degamo was quoted in January 2020 by the Philippine News Agency as saying he is confident that law is on his side and he would be able to run in 2022.

He had cited a Supreme court ruling which allowed a Camarines Norte governor to serve his fourth consecutive term due to suspensions and dismissals that hounded his years in office.

What’s the background of the story?

In January 2011, then-vice governor Degamo took control of provincial hall, following the death of Governor Agustin Perdices.

Degamo ran for governor and won in 2013, constituting his first term in office. His reelection bids in 2016 and 2019 were also successful.

In 2016 and 2017, Degamo was left no choice but to briefly leave his post after separate Ombudsman decisions which dismissed him from office due to alleged misuse of public funds.

In both occasions, he successfully secured a temporary restraining order from the Court of Appeals (CA), resulting in his eventual reinstatement in office.

In the CA ruling in 2016, the court found him only liable for simple misconduct in 2012, and while he was slapped with a suspension of up to six months for it, it was no longer imposed due to the condonation doctrine. This basically meant that Degamo, reelected in 2016, cannot be removed from office for an administrative misconduct committed during his first term.

What’s the petitioner’s argument?

The petition insisted it was clear that Degamo has served his three consecutive terms “fully and without interruption” because the appellate court issued status quo ante orders in Degamo’s two Ombudsman cases.

Petitioner Dayupay argued that the status quo ante orders reinstated Degamo’s status as governor before the filing of the case “as if he [has] never been dismissed or stripped of his title by the two Ombudsman orders dismissing him from office.”

“By actively seeking status quo ante orders to undo the effects of his dismissals… Respondent is now barred to claim ‘interruption’ from his thwarted dismissals,” the petition read.

Based on the Comelec’s tentative list of candidates, Degamo of Nacionalista Party may face three opponents n the 2022 polls, including Vice Governor Mark Macias of the Liberal Party and Henry Teves of the Nationalist People’s Coalition.

Rappler reached out to Degamo for his side. This story will be updated once he replies.

Has a fourth-term bid happened before?

Degamo’s confidence that his 2022 gubernatorial run would be deemed valid stemmed from a September 2019 Supreme Court ruling which allowed Camarines Norte Governor Edgardo Tallado to serve a fourth consecutive term.

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The Ombudsman had suspended Tallado for a year in October 2015 for invalidating appointments of provincial employees made by his predecessor. He was also dismissed for over half a year in 2018 over a related case.

The Comelec already canceled his candidacy in April 2019, but the Supreme Court issued a status quo ante order that ultimately allowed him to run for office a month later. – Rappler.com

Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers local government units and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.