‘Place-holder’ candidates

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

This is a free country. Everybody and anybody can dream. But to the very few who made it to the presidency, they believe it was destiny, fate.

In principle, we cannot begrudge the 97 Filipinos who boldly stepped up to offer themselves as candidates vying to be elected as successor to outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte. This number will be down to less than ten though once the Commission on Elections (Comelec) makes the final cut of these presidential wannabes. In the end, we might have more or less five candidates who are really serious contenders in next year’s presidential contest.

Officially, the Comelec reported this total number of 97 aspirants who filed their certificates of candidacy (COC) to enter the May 9, 2022 presidential elections. On the other hand, 29 individuals filed their COCs to signify their ardent dreams also to become the next Vice President (VP) of the country.

This is a free country. Everybody and anybody can dream. But to the very few who made it to the presidency, they believe it was destiny, fate.

During the weeklong filing period from Oct.1 to 8, the Comelec received a total of 47,853 COCs and certificates of nomination and acceptance (CONAs) from individuals and organizations who will run next year for various national and local elective posts. As earlier announced by Comelec official spokesman James Jimenez, the seven-man poll body will come out on Oct. 29 with the official list of candidates who have fully submitted and met the documentary requirements of their individual COCs filed.

Jimenez clarified though the official list is only to enable these candidates to make last-minute corrections of their names and other erroneous entries in their COCs. Once all of these lists of COCs are finalized, the Comelec will start the crucial process of vetting and screening to determine the legitimate candidates who really have bona fide intention to run and resources to support his or her candidacy.

These 47,853 candidates will vie for the 18,100 national and local government posts up for grab in next year’s elections. Or this is about an average of three individuals vying per one elective post. However, this law of average does not apply though in every presidential race that we had had in the Philippines. In fact, there were only five candidates in the last May, 2016 presidential race that had 130 presidential candidates who submitted COCs to the Comelec. Eventually, it was former Davao City Mayor  Duterte who won the presidential derby.

As required by the country’s laws, the Comelec has to accept and entertain anybody who submits and meets the complete documentary requirements in filing their COCs and CONAs for whatever elective positions.

Among those who trooped to Comelec to file COC for the presidential elections included the usual scene-stealers like Daniel Magtira. Aside from his ludicrous claims to be the “husband” of Kris Aquino, he was previously declared by the poll body as a “nuisance” candidate. A newcomer in this category is Laurencio Jun Yulaga, a self-proclaimed “international scientist” who claims to be a Harvard graduate and said that electrocution can cure COVID-19. And mind you, he has a VP running mate, Alexander Lague who claims to own an oil company and wants collected urine converted into perfume and fertilizer.

Obviously, they will be among those who would be cut out by the Comelec. But how would Comelec treat the likes of former presidential spokesman and later as Foreign Affairs undersecretary Ernesto Abella who registered himself as an “independent” candidate?

Or for that matter, incumbent Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa who admitted having entered the presidential race for possible substitution later by Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio? That is, if the President’s daughter who has been topping the mock polls in surveys changes her mind and decides to run after all in next year’s presidential elections.

This is because our election laws allow for substitution of candidates for those under the same political party. The filing for substitution is until Nov.15.

Like an after-thought candidate for the ruling administration PDP-Laban, Sen.Dela Rosa was one of the last-minute entries in the presidential race. As the presidential standard-bearer—for now of the PDP-Laban-- the former top cop of the country was fielded with fellow Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go as his VP runningmate.

Sen.Dela Rosa, who arrived two hours before the COC deadline last Friday, wore the green shirt emblazoned with the logo of Mayor Sara’s regional political party Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) inside the red jacket with PDP-Laban logo. Sen. Dela Rosa subliminally presented himself as a unifying body for the two pro-Duterte political parties.

But an hour later on the same day in Davao City, Mayor Sara filed her COC for re-election at Davao City Hall under her own HNP. The PDP-Laban is not among the political parties that earlier entered into a coalition agreement with HNP. But the following political parties signed up for coalition with HNP for next year’s elections, namely: Lakas-CMD party; the Nacionalista Party (NP); the National Unity Party (NUP); Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) party; and the People’s Reform Party (PRP).

So there are now loose talks that certain candidates are supposedly the designated “placeholder” candidates for certain presidential timbers and VP still on hold. It would not be a surprise if President Duterte himself changes again his mind and revive his initial plans to run for VP as substitute candidate to Sen.Go, his long-time aide.

Slips of the tongues have come out publicly that two COC filers for the Lakas-CMD for president and VP elections are among these so-called “place-holders” for some real candidates still under the wraps of political strategists. Belatedly reacting to this not-so-new political tactic, Senators and House lawmakers have initiated proposed legislation to amend Sections 69, 261 (CC) and 264 of the 1985 Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines.

While it seeks to stop the mockery of our electoral process, Congress would be hard put to pass into law dis-allowing “place-holder” candidates because it would be like cutting off one of their own tentacles to power.

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