Supreme Court Decision: Degamo remains Negros Oriental Governor
The Supreme Court affirms the Comelec’s decision to nullify Henry Teves’ election victory and proclaim Roel Degamo as the true winner of the 2022 gubernatorial race in Negros Oriental. It dismissed petitions filed by former governor Henry Teves, who sought to take back the seat of power in Negros Oriental from election rival Roel Degamo.
The High Court on Tuesday, February 14, sided with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) which, in October 2022, proclaimed Degamo as the true winner of the hotly contested race, after votes obtained by a nuisance candidate were transferred to him. The additional votes obtained by Degamo were enough to unseat Teves, who initially emerged victorious from the local race.
“Ultimately, the Court found no grave abuse of discretion in the counting of the votes garnered by the nuisance candidate Ruel G. Degamo in favor of Roel R. Degamo,” a press release issued by the SC’s public information office read.
After a special canvassing board convened in October, the results of the local race were amended. The en banc’s ruling had only affirmed the Comelec Second Division’s Dec. 2021 resolution declaring Grego Gaudia as a nuisance candidate.
Aside from nullifying Teves’ victory, the resolution also ordered a special provincial board of canvassers to reconvene and transfer Gaudia’s votes to Degamo. The SC noted a “noticeable likeness” in the names of Degamo and Gaudia, who used the name “Ruel Degamo” in the 2022 polls.
“The Court held that the only way to distinguish “Roel” and “Ruel” is their number on the ballot and their political affiliations,” SC said in a statement.
It also upheld the Comelec Second Division’s observation that Gaudia had only used the name “Ruel Degamo” for the 2022 polls, and took the surname of those who had taken custody of him but did not adopt him legally.
“The Court further held that while Teves was the winning candidate for the gubernatorial position in Negros Oriental in the 2022 National and Local Elections, his status in the petition filed by Roel Degamo before the COMELEC to declare Grego ‘Ruel’ Degamo as a nuisance candidate, was that of an observer,” the SC said.
“Hence, even if he was not impleaded in the petition filed by Roel against Ruel the same will not amount to a violation of his right to due process,” it also said, adding that the number of votes Teves earned would remain the same.
A total of 49,953 votes from the nuisance candidate were added to Degamo’s 281,773 votes, bringing the total to 331,726. It was enough to unseat Teves, who only secured 301,319 votes. A weeklong standoff ensued in the provincial hall before Teves finally stepped down and vacated the building.
“Justice has been served to the people of Negros Oriental. To the most powerful God, thank you so much. Dalaygon ang buhi nga Dios. (Praise the living Gold)! Happy Valentines everyone,” said a Degamo in a statement.