Palace: Premature to react on poll substitution abuse

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Palace: Premature to react on poll substitution abuse
File photo shows presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.
The STAR / Joven Cagande, file

MANILA, Philippines — It is premature to react to claims that the substitution rule for candidates is being abused, Malacañang said yesterday, as suspicions mount that some individuals who filed their certificates of candidacy (COC) are mere placeholders.

“Well, I do not know about the supposed abuse because no one has substituted. Perhaps we would have a conclusion if somebody has substituted,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. told GMA News.

“Second, that’s in the law. So for now, no one has substituted. It’s premature to say that it is being abused,” he said.

The filing of the COC ended last Oct. 8, but the deadline for substitution of candidates is not until Nov. 15.

Critics have accused Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, the candidate for president of the PDP-Laban faction led by President Duterte and Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, of being a placeholder for Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.

Duterte-Carpio has rejected calls for her to run for president and has filed her COC for reelection in next year’s polls.

Dela Rosa has said he is willing to withdraw his COC if Duterte-Carpio accepts the PDP-Laban’s offer for her to become its candidate for president.

He said he was not told that he would just be a temporary standard bearer while Duterte-Carpio is unavailable.

The former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, considered the architect of Duterte’s drug war, said he is presenting himself as the “legitimate standard bearer” of PDP-Laban.

In 2015, Duterte, then the mayor of Davao City, substituted for Martin Diño as PDP-Laban’s standard bearer and went on to win the 2016 presidential race by landslide.

Bills filed

Yesterday, Deputy Speaker and Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez made good his promise to seek an “absolute ban” on candidacy substitutions and the practice of fielding placeholder-candidates by filing two proposed measures before the House.

Rodriguez filed House Bills 10380 and 10381 for purposes of banning candidate substitution and declaring an incumbent elective official as “automatically resigned” upon the filing of his COC for another position.

He also sought to have placeholder-candidates who filed their COCs with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) declared as “nuisance candidates,” especially if they have no real intention of serving the public in such capacity.

“As such, any person who has no real intention to run and only filed for candidacy as a placeholder (for another aspirant) should be declared as a nuisance candidate,” he said.

The Comelec has the mandate to disqualify such an aspirant, especially so if he does not have the resources to run a nationwide campaign, much less a name that is of national prominence, as this person only “puts the election process in mockery or disrepute.”

Under Rodriguez’s HB 10380, a political party would be prohibited from substituting any candidate unless the latter dies or is disqualified. The Omnibus Election Code allows the substitution of a candidate in case of death, disqualification or withdrawal of another aspirant.

The other proposed law, House Bill 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.

In defense

But the PDP-Laban’s Cusi faction said political parties who bide their time to substitute their standard-bearers in the 2022 elections denied “making a mockery of the electoral process.”

PDP-Laban secretary-general Melvin Matibag said the law was clear as to how substitutions can be done and maintained there was nothing wrong with this “strategy.”

“If the real intent of the Omnibus Election Code envisioned only those who will die along the way or be disqualified, then why didn’t the lawmakers just state so? It’s that simple. If the law is clear there should be no room for interpretation,” Matibag said.

Recently, Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III joined the clamor that substitution should be removed altogether as it is being “abused” for political reasons and not for its legally intended purpose.

However, Matibag argued that opting for substitution is not a mockery of the law.

“Any political party can opt to utilize the rule on substitution as it is allowed by law. It is available to everyone without distinction. A mockery is when rules are not applied equally,” he said.

He said the substitution provision only became an issue, because Duterte used it in 2016 when he won the elections and other parties are wary that it might be used again as a strategy to field Duterte-Carpio in place of Dela Rosa for PDP-Laban.

“It’s not a mockery of the elections law if the political parties use every available legal option, or time, for them to finally decide the candidates to field,” said Matibag, who had stressed earlier that Dela Rosa is not a “mere placeholder” for Duterte-Carpio.

Nevertheless, Dela Rosa himself said he would be willing to step aside for Duterte-Carpio if she decides before the Nov. 15 deadline to run for president under PDP-Laban or an administration coalition. – Delon Porcalla, Neil Jayson Servallos

  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with