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Senators push bill to ban substitution when candidate withdraws

Bella Perez-Rubio - Philstar.com
Senators push bill to ban substitution when candidate withdraws
Sen. Ronald 'Bato' dela Rosa files his certificate of candidacy for president under PDP-Laban on October 8, 2021.
Photo by COMELEC on Twitter

MANILA, Philippines — At least five senators are pushing to prohibit the substitution of electoral aspirants who voluntarily withdraw their candidacies ahead of elections.

Senate Bill No. 2349 was filed by Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian on Monday. This late into the 18th Congress, it is unlikely to make progress in a legislature that also has to work on the proposed national budget for 2022.

Historically, attendance has been a problem for Congress as many members tend to focus on their election campaigns.

The bill seeks to amend Section 77 of the Omnibus Election Code which currently allows accredited political parties to substitute their candidates in cases of death, disqualification or withdrawal.

Instead of allowing substitution due to withdrawal, the bill proposes allowing the replacement of candidates in cases of incapacity in addition to death or disqualification. 

The proposed measure is co-authored by Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Sens. Nancy Binay, Grace Poe, and Joel Villanueva. Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who is vying for the presidency next year, said last week that he was in favor of a similar proposal. 

Gatchalian, in a statement to reporters, said that the substitution of candidates who have voluntarily withdrawn has been abused over the years and goes against the intent of the law to uphold orderly and transparent elections. He also said the practice has made a "mockery" of candidacy filing. 

President Rodrigo Duterte was a last-minute candidate through substitution in the 2016 elections. He replaced Martin Diño as PDP-Laban's candidate for president.

"The ballot is sacred. That's why it's only right that we value the filing of candidacies during elections," Gatchalian said in Filipino. "It is a privilege to be able to serve the country so the person first chosen by a party should have the courage to run." 

A counterpart measure was earlier filed in the House of Representatives by Rep. Rufus Rodriguez  (Cagayan de Oro). Unlike the Senate's version of the bill, it does not propose incapacity as an additional ground for candidate substitution. 

Ex-Comelec commissioner: Review of entire election framework needed

Gatchalian said that limiting the grounds for substitution will work to strengthen and institutionalize the political party system as well as level the election playing field in the country.

But simply amending substitution rules may not be enough, according to former Commission on Elections Commissioner Luie Guia. 

"[R]evisiting this law and trying to amend it is maybe myopic in the sense that it may have an effect on other aspects of election[s]," Guia told Philstar.com in an interview conducted partially in Filipino. 

"What we really need is to revisit the whole election legal framework whose core basis is the 1985 Omnibus Election Code, which even came before the 1987 Constitution that it’s supposed to implement." 

The administration party's choice of Sen. Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa and his running mate Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go, has sparked speculation as to whether the two are serving as placeholders for other prospective candidates.

Dela Rosa, who filed his candidacy for president around an hour before the deadline, has said that he would be willing to make way for the president's daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio. 

Duterte-Carpio insists she is not seeking the presidency and filed her candidacy for reelection to Davao's city hall.

However, under current rules, accredited parties have until November 15 to substitute their chosen candidates.  

— with a report from Xave Gregorio 

2022 ELECTIONS SENATE
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