Reinventing the electoral system

Reinventing the electoral system

Sen. Bato dela Rosa, nothing but a mere “placeholder” for Sara Duterte?

We feel, really, the need to reinvent the country’s electoral system, being ridiculed by aspirants for national and even local posts.

This is why we are persuaded by the thoughts of some in the House of Representatives – the likes of Deputy Speaker and Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr. and Deputy Speaker and Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, who echoed the former’s view while proposing certain reforms he said would “put an end to the manipulation and mockery of the elections process.”

Pichay, a stalwart of the Lakas Christian Muslim Democrats, has urged the Commission on Elections or the Comelec to remove the substitution option for candidates – whose possibilities have been raised this week after the Oct 1-8 filing of Certificates of Candidacies, with aspirants running for the highest post without any teammate, or aspirants running for the second-highest political gift but no presidential candidate.

In Pichay’s words, “this business of substitution is actually creating a chess or poker game among all the parties because like for example, the PDP-Laban fielded Sen. Bato (Ronald) dela Rosa as a presidential candidate. But we all know that Sen. Bato is not really serious about running for President.”

He denied that Lakas-CMD’s presidential aspirant Anna Capella Velasco, the party’s executive director, and vice-presidential bet Lyle Fernando Uy are mere “placeholders” waiting for real candidates to substitute them.

“The business of substitution is actually not a good practice,” Pichay, secretary-general of the Lakas-CMD, said.

Comelec must be smiling. There are 97 presidential aspirants and 29 vice-presidential hopefuls and voluntary substitution is allowed until November 15 before the final list of candidates will be released in December.

In echoing Pichay’s views, Rodriguez proposed certain reforms: “One reform I am proposing is an almost absolute ban on substitution of candidates by political parties. Another is the restoration of the old rule requiring incumbent officials to resign or to be deemed automatically resigned upon the filing of their certificates of candidacy for other positions.”

Since the introduction of the practice that allows candidate switching, Rodriguez said many people did not believe that some aspirants were serious and qualified for the higher positions for which they filed their COCs.

This is indeed lamentable that for the May 2022 elections, certain candidates for the presidency are perceived to be proxies for some personalities, even if, as Rodriguez said, “they can be considered as serious aspirants.”

He said he was proposing that substitution be prohibited unless the candidate-nominee of a political party dies or is disqualified before election day.

This will give the Comelec more time to screen COCs filers, prepare the finalist list of candidates and print the official ballots and related paraphernalia.

Rodriguez added that under the present election law, the Comelec has to wait until the Nov. 15 substitution deadline before finalizing the list of candidates even if the COC filing period has ended last Oct. 8.

“If we maintain the present Oct. 8 COC filing deadline, the commission will have an additional time of more than one month to prepare for the elections. Alternatively, we can move the timelines closer to election day like setting Nov. 15 as the close of the COC filing period,” he said.

He said the candidate substitution ban and the requirement for candidates who are incumbent officials to resign are reforms that would complement each other.

“A candidate would not agree to be a proxy for a dawdling, wavering, or indecisive aspirant if he would have to give up his office. The resignation requirement would apply to all levels, national or local, whether aiming for higher or lower positions,” he said.

He pointed out that the resignation requirement would level the playing field among elective and appointive officials like Cabinet members who are candidates. “It would prevent them from using their offices, public funds, and their influence to promote their candidacies,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said his proposed reforms would force aspirants to take running for higher office seriously and to stop manipulating and mocking the electoral process.

“These would also make more people believe in the integrity of our elections,” he added.

Meanwhile, an election lawyer weighed in on the issue of political parties putting “placeholders,” or members filing candidacies with the intention to be substituted, similar to the 2015 move of PDP-Laban when they suddenly fielded Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

According to Emil Marañon, an aspirant admitting he was merely a “placeholder” could be a ground for him to be considered as a “nuisance.”

“If you admit publicly that you are just a placeholder in that you yourself has (sic) no intention to run then actually you fit into the definition of a nuisance candidate,” said Marañon, who previously worked as chief of staff of then Commission on Elections (Comelec) chair Sixto Brillantes.

He told ABS-CBN News: “A nuisance candidate under the law means the person has no intention to join the elections but he is doing that for purposes such as making a mockery out of the election system. A petition can be filed against that person to be declared as a nuisance candidate whose certificate of candidacy is void from the beginning; that person declared as a nuisance candidate cannot be substituted.”

At the same time, election watchdog Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) hit political groups for seemingly using the November 15 substitution deadline set by Comelec as part of their political strategy.

While taking note of the provision in the Omnibus Election Code that allows substitution for candidates who will die, be disqualified, or withdraw from the race, LENTE Executive Director Rona Caritos pointed out that the filing of Certificates of Candidacy from October 1 to 8 also underlines the political parties’ seriousness and preparedness to field their most competent bets.

“If you’re a political party, you prepare for that, you plan. You don’t just field any candidate as a placeholder. So that’s not a good indication for the political party system in the Philippines because that means those with that kind of strategy don’t think through, don’t plan,” Caritos told ABS-CBN News.

Caritos made these observations days after Dela Rosa’s unexpected filing of his COC for the presidential derby, under the ruling PDP-Laban wing backed by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Dela Rosa, a former police general who has been a senator just since 2019, during interviews has been very vocal in expressing his readiness to withdraw from the presidential race in favor of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.

Asked about speculation that Duterte-Carpio will later run for president in his place, Dela Rosa was heard to have said, “E ‘di mas maganda (That would be good).”

Dela Rosa himself admitted that he was picked as the party’s presidential bet just two hours before the filing of candidacies closed on October 8.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III, who is running for vice president, meanwhile, said he saw some “abuse” by political groups of the period for substitution.

“The problem in the law is the third option which is “when a candidate withdraws. That is what is being abused. We should amend that and remove it completely. If you are not ready and unprepared, why are you running for public office?… subject to all kinds of abuses. It should be amended,” Sotto said in a text message.

We should stop making the electoral system a hoax. (ai/mtvn)

Leave a Reply