Too late? SC finds injunction versus Degamo ouster erroneous, weeks after CA decided on merits

The Supreme Court (SC) has found erroneous the Court of Appeals’ (CA) issuance of stay orders against the dismissal of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo because he did not have any vested right to public office—but, this may not have an effect anymore because the CA had already decided on the merits a few weeks before.

In a recently-released 10-page decision dated October 9, the SC 3rd Division granted the petition of provincial board member Melliemoore Saycon challenging the temporary restraining order (TRO) dated January 11, 2018 and the writ of preliminary injunction (WPI) dated March 7, 2018.

The CA 19th Division issued these interlocutory orders to stop the implementation of the Ombudsman’s March 2, 2017 dismissal order, while it resolved the merits of Degamo’s appeal.

The SC said the CA gravely abused its discretion, because Degamo had no vested right to protect and there was no urgent necessity to prevent serious damage.

The decision, penned by Associate Justice Andres Reyes, Jr., stressed that “there can be no vested interest or absolute right to an office,” and that “public service or office cannot be considered a property right.”

It added that there was no likelihood of serious damage to Degamo, because if he succeeded in his appeal, he would still be entitled to receive the salary and other benefits that he would not receive because of his removal.

“Verily, there is no basis for the issuance of a TRO or a WPI in favor of Roel,” the SC said, although it clarified its decision would “pertain only to the impropriety of the injunction.”

While dissolving the TRO and the WPI, the SC directed the CA to “proceed immediately with the resolution” of Degamo’s appeal.

Seemingly unbeknownst to the SC, the CA already did resolve the appeal in Degamo’s favor. Hence, the SC’s nullification of the TRO and the WPI probably may not result in his ouster.

The CA Special 18th Division, in a 17-page decision dated September 16, applied the condonation doctrine in Degamo’s case, even as it found him to have committed the lesser offense of simple misconduct.

The court said Degamo could no longer be disciplinarily sanctioned because the case occurred on January 15, 2013 when he was a provincial board member. During the succeeding election in May 2013, he was elected as governor, which meant the voters “condoned his previous misconduct” during his earlier term.

Saycon filed the complaint on November 11, 2014, or two years before the SC abandoned the doctrine on November 14, 2016.

The case revolved around the release of P10 million to Degamo as intelligence operation expenses, despite the absence of an appropriation in the provincial budget.

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