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Debunking The Confusion With Nuisance Candidate In Negros' Gubernatorial Election

By: Francis Lianro Bulado

Nuisance candidate brought confusion in the 2022 gubernatorial elections in the province of Negros Oriental as voters wonder who will be the winning governor to serve the province for the next six years to come.

Campaign Poster of Ruel Degamo and Roel Degamo in the #Eleksyon2022
Almost Identical Campaign Poster of "Ruel Degamo" and "Roel Degamo" for the 2022 Philippine Elections

Bayawan City Mayor Pryde Henry Teves of the Nationalist People's Coalition was proclaimed the winner of the gubernatorial race by the Provincial Board of Canvassers (PBC) in the Provincial Capitol of Negros Oriental on May 10, 2022. The PBC also issued a 'Certificate of Canvass of Votes and Proclamation of Winning Candidate for Provincial Governor' which states that Teves garnered 301,319 votes, the highest number of votes "legally" casted.

On the other hand, Teves' closest opponent, the incumbent Governor Roel Degamo of the Nacionalista Party was running for his third and final term which he acquired 281,773 votes. Degamo is expected to contest the result by praying to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to discredit the votes of the third candidate with a seemingly similar name, "Ruel Degamo" and should instead be counted in favor of him.

The incumbent governor said on Thursday, May 12, 2022 on his official Facebook Page that the Provincial Capitol employees were celebrating his victory.

The camp of Roel Degamo claimed that the independent candidate who goes by the name of Ruel Degamo spoiled his reelection bid where Ruel garnered 49,953 votes, leaving behind Liberal Party’s Vice Governor Mark Macias with 44,522 votes.

Henry Pryde Teves however, posted a counter statement on his Facebook Page saying he wont let his supporters' votes be wasted along with the copy of the Certification from the Provincial Board of Canvassers.

Nuisance candidate has been defined by the Batasang Pambansa BLG. 881 or the Omnibus Election Code, specifically in Section 69 as someone who filed a certificate of candidacy that will “put the election process in mockery or disrepute or to cause confusion among the voters by the similarity of names of the registered candidates or by other circumstances or acts which clearly demonstrate that the candidate has no bona fide intention to run for the office for which the certificate of the candidacy has been filed and thus prevent a faithful determination of the true will of the electorate.”

The wife of the incumbent governor who is also the seating Municipality Mayor in Pamplona, Negros Oriental, Janice Degamo, shared a copy of Comelec’s decision on his husband’s petition last year to declare Ruel Degamo a nuisance candidate and to cancel his candidacy.

The Petitioner (Roel Ragay Degamo), alleges that the Respondent’s (Ruel Degamo) last name is Gaudia and has no birth certificate "as he was entrusted to the care and custody of the spouses of Jaime Degamo and Irna Gaudia Degamo at a very young age." The Petitioner was able to submit a sworn affidavit of Irna Gaudia Degamo to prove these allegations.

He further alleges that the Respondent is an aircon mechanic; has not been popularly known by the nickname "Ruel". He also claimed that his political rival pressured and bribed the relative to file a Certificate of Candidacy.

Last December 16, 2021, the Comelec 2nd Division promulgated a resolution signed by Commissioner Socorro Inting and Commissioner Antionio Kho Jr., where it declared Grego Degamo as a nuisance candidate. It said that Ruel Degamo, known as Grego Gaudia only used the alias "Ruel" and the surname "Degamo" to confuse the voters for the 2022 elections.

Two "Degamo", one with the name "Roel" and another with "Ruel" will absolutely confuse voters and render worthless a vote for either Degamos during the appreciation of the ballots, thus, preventing the determination of the choice and true will of the electorate, the resolution said.

Furthermore, the resolution also emphasized that Grego "Ruel" Degamo failed to show his "bona fide intention" to run as a governor "in good faith". The resolution also stated that Grego lacks the means to sustain the election campaign.

Despite the order of the Comelec 2nd Division that declared Grego “Ruel” Degamo as a nuisance candidate and canceled his candidacy, the Respondent filed a Motion for Reconsideration and was referred to the Comelec en banc which is still pending up until this writing, this could be a reason why the name Ruel Degamo still appeared on the ballot, according to Roel Degamo’s Legal Counsel Atty. Richard Enojo.

Roel Degamo’s camp said that the incumbent governor is the rightful winner of this year's election if the votes of the nuisance candidate bearing the same name, however, spelled differently, would be credited to Roel Degamo as it would put the incumbent in the lead against Henry Teves.

Roel Degamo cited in a social media post a specific case, Santos v. Comelec (G.R. No. 235059, 04 September 2018), where the Supreme Court has ruled that the votes of the nuisance candidate will be automatically credited to the legitimate candidate. Also a similar case in Dela Cruz v. COMELEC (G.R. No. 192221, 13 November 2012), the Supreme Court has ruled that the votes garnered by the candidates who were declared nuisance candidates and whose certificate of candidacy have been canceled or set aside, should be counted in favor of the legitimate candidate.

According to the Philippine News Agency (PNA), Comelec Provincial Supervisor Atty. Lionel Marco Castillano made it clear that Comelec in Negros Oriental does not have the power and authority to transfer the votes of Ruel Degamo without proper proceedings. He also added that the decision is not yet final and executory as the motion for reconsideration on cancellation of candidacy and declaring Grego "Ruel" Degamo as a nuisance candidate and to cancel his candidacy is still yet pending at the Comelec en banc. Atty. Castillano said that there are about 1,000 disqualification cases that are currently handled by the Comelec en banc. He emphasized that it is up to the legal team of Degamo to follow up on the pending case with the poll body in Manila. The camp of Degamo is actively taking legal actions to resolve the issue.

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