Sen. Bato dela Rosa filed a COC for president but says “mas maganda” after reporters asked him whether Davao City Mayor and Presidential daughter Sara Duterte will eventually replace him before November 15, 2021 deadline for substitution among candidates.
Stomach-turning, this recent practice by politicians, particularly on the national rung, of candidate substitution which is allowed 38 days after the last day of filing with the Commission on Elections their respective certificates of candidacy.
Let’s go back to Article IX, Section 77 of the Omnibus Election Code. The provision is precise: “Candidates in case of death, disqualification or withdrawal of another. – If after the last day for the filing of certificates of candidacy, an official candidate of a registered or accredited political party dies, withdraws, or is disqualified for any cause, only a person belonging to, and certified by, the same political party may file a certificate of candidacy to replace the candidate who died, withdrew or was disqualified.
“The substitute candidate nominated by the political party concerned may file his certificate of candidacy for the office affected in accordance with the preceding sections not later than mid-day of the day of the election.
“If the death, withdrawal or disqualification should occur between the day before the election and mid-day of election day, said certificate may be filed with any board of election inspectors in the political subdivision where he is a candidate, or, in the case of candidates to be voted for by the entire electorate of the country, with the Commission.” (Sec. 28, 1978 EC).
The substitution rule and the filing of certificates of candidacy by so-called placeholders – those who may be replaced before the cut-off deadline breathes down the nape of the Commission on Elections – are bold legends of insult to the Filipino voters.
Unfortunately – but this is tragic – these are apparently in the front yard of the 2022 national elections, with some presidential candidates standing by their lonesome without a running mate thus far, or a vice-presidential aspirant without a presidential standard-bearer.
We are not saying that those who have no teams up to this point are making a mockery of the system.
It is just that we find it hard to believe that these candidates have not done their political homework pretty well that they must wait for teammates from perhaps other sides of their aisle, as it were.
And politics, a favorite pastime in this nation of 100 million people – more than 73 million of whom are qualified voters – has become far worse than a situation comedy.
Now, here comes Deputy Speaker and Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez who filed this week two bills banning candidate substitution and declaring an incumbent elective official as automatically resigned upon the filing of his certificate of candidacy for another position.
His train of thought: “These twin measures aim to put an end to practices by politicians and political parties that tend to put in doubt the integrity of our elections.”
Under House Bill 10380, a political party would be prohibited from substituting any candidate unless the latter dies or is disqualified.
Rodriguez said the Omnibus Election Code allows the substitution of a candidate in case of death, disqualification, or withdrawal of another aspirant.
“While there is nothing wrong with substitution in case of death or disqualification which is justifiable, substitution because of withdrawal, or what others call voluntary substitution, may pose serious questions and may lead to the manipulation and mockery of the election process,” he said.
“Withdrawals could lead the voting public to believe that the candidate who withdrew, or even the political party or substituting candidate, is not really serious,” he said.
He pointed out that the election law empowered the Commission on Elections to disqualify an aspirant who filed his COC to put the election process in mockery or disrepute.
“As such, any person who has no real intention to run and only filed for candidacy as a place holder (for another aspirant) should be declared as a nuisance candidate,” Rodriguez stressed.
But Comelec, the government’s election watchdog, appears firm the voluntary substitution option for political aspirants should not be removed, despite growing calls from several members of Congress, suggesting lawmakers should instead consider coming up with specific limitations.
Rodriguez added that prohibiting voluntary substitution would also give the Comelec additional time to screen COC filers, prepare the final list of candidates and print the official ballots and related paraphernalia.
The other proposed law, HB 10381, seeks to restore the old provision in the election law that declared an incumbent as resigned ipso facto (by that very fact or act) upon filing his COC for another position.
The Fair Elections Act of 2001 (Republic Act 9006) scrapped the resignation declaration.
We agree with him when he said “It is high time to reinstate the repealed provision on elective officials being deemed resigned once they file their certificates of candidacy, but only if they file for another position different from the ones they are currently holding.”
He added: “This would force aspirants to take running for higher office seriously and to stop manipulating and mocking the electoral process. It would also make more people believe in the integrity of our elections.”
The former law dean of a Catholic college said the old rule if restored, would apply to all incumbent elective officials, whether running for higher or lower office and “would prevent incumbents from using their office, public funds and property, and influence to promote their candidacy (and) would also put aspirants, whether bureaucrats who are forced to resign under the present law and incumbent elective officials on a level playing field.”
But we read Comelec spokesman James Jimenez in his tweet, “What needs to happen is that Congress should introduce restrictions of some sort on the exercise of the statutory privilege of substitution.”
Unlike the first two cases of death and disqualification, under the Omnibus Election Code, withdrawal calls for voluntary substitution.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senator Aquilino Pimentel have both sounded the alarm on the withdrawal option being “abused” by some parties.
Jimenez said he believed in the importance of the provision, although he admitted it was being used as a “strategy,” adding “I deplore the thinking that results in this ‘strategy,’ but [I’ve] also seen the intrinsic worth of the system of substitution.”
Some aspirants who filed their certificates of candidacy are speculated to be just “placeholders” until the November 15 substitution deadline.
In the meanwhile, this drama is helplessly nauseating while we try to stand up to the challenge of the ruthless coronavirus.