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Opinion

‘Bato’ risks DQ as nuisance after admission as substitute

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

The Comelec said it will disqualify as nuisance 95 percent of the 97 presidential filers for Election 2022. That would leave only five official candidates.

Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, the ruling PDP-Laban nominee, risks being thrown out. His public admission of merely warming the bench for Sara Duterte-Carpio betrays unseriousness to run. He owns up to being a last-minute surprise choice who, although unprepared,  “obeyed only as a good soldier.”

Five aspirants have long declared presidential intentions: Senators Panfilo Lacson and Manny Pacquiao, ex-senator Bongbong Marcos, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno and Vice President Leni Robredo.

Nuisances are to be weeded out among the 47,853 candidacy filers for 18,100 national and local positions. The Comelec must clear the field for timely ballot printing. To be listed front and back of the ballots are the names and parties of all qualified candidates specific to each of 84,000 clustered precincts.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez discussed dela Rosa’s sincerity in running for President. “Medyo outlier po ang kaso ni Senator Bato. Pasok na pasok siya... sa lahat ng criteria [kung] seseryosohing kandidato,” he told Cito Beltran’s Agenda on One News last Monday. “Ang problema sa kanya is inaamin niya na OK lang sa kanya na ma-substitute siya. So, parang lumalabas ngayon sa mga tao eh parang inamin niya na rin na placeholder siya. Nasaan du’n ang bona fide intention mo to actually throw your hat in the ring?” Jimenez is serving under his fifth Comelec chairman as head of the Education and Information Division for more than two decades.

The Omnibus Election Code, Section 69, forbids nuisance candidates. They are defined as those who: (1) put the election process in mockery or disrepute; (2) cause confusion among voters by the similarity of their name to other registered candidates and (3) other circumstances or acts which clearly demonstrate that the candidate has no bona fide intention to run for the office for which the certificate of candidacy has been filed and is consequently preventing a faithful determination of the true will of the electorate.

Dela Rosa suddenly filed a Certificate of Candidacy in the closing minutes last Friday, Oct. 8. After which, he told reporters he was willing to be substituted by Sara, President Duterte’s daughter and Davao City mayor. Two days prior, Duterte confirmed Sara’s oft-repeated disinterest in the presidency, although she leads preference surveys. That left PDP-Laban with no standard-bearer since its first choice, Senator Christopher Go, filed for vice president on Oct. 2. Netizens are deriding PDP-Laban as “the first ruling party in history to endorse a nuisance candidate.”

“I’m just being practical since Mayor Sara’s winnability is very high, so I am willing to give way to her,” dela Rosa said in a news conference. “If she won’t accept, [then] I am a serious candidate. I am serious in encouraging Mayor Sara to run, but I am very serious to run. But it doesn’t mean [I] won’t give way to a more winnable candidate.” Should he lose a 2022 presidential run, he can resume his senatorial term till 2025.

Dela Rosa went on: “Even if I’m not informed [by party leaders], I know there could be a replacement. Let’s wait for Nov. 15 if there would be changes. I am a good soldier.”

That date is the deadline for substitution. Replacements are accommodated in case the original candidate dies, falls ill or can no longer continue for some serious reason. But it has become a publicity gimmick, as rumors of substitution are fanned to keep candidates top of mind. In September 2016, Duterte repeatedly announced impending political retirement after his mayoral term ends. Two months later, he substituted an obscure partymate as presidential standard-bearer.

Five-decade-long election lawyer Romulo Macalintal has called on the Comelec to disqualify not only the nuisance but also the substitute. Both make a mockery of the electoral process, he told Sapol-dwIZ last Saturday. If the nuisance is swiftly removed, then there can be no substitute. The former’s COC and party Certificate of Nomination and Acceptance will be voided, hence no slot to fill in. There should be no separate deadlines for filing and substitution. That way, unbothered by nuisances, the Comelec can have more time for voter registration.

Dela Rosa said he was playing with his grandchild in Cavite last Friday when unexpectedly phoned by PDP-Laban at 3 p.m. Party president and Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi asked him to rush to the Comelec filing in Pasay City and beat the 5 p.m. deadline. Dela Rosa then called Go to confirm if his last-minute nomination had Duterte’s approval as party chairman. Told yes, he barely made it to the venue.

It is unclear when dela Rosa devised a presidential platform. He told reporters that if not substituted, he would continue Duterte’s war on “drugs, corruption, terrorism and COVID-19.”

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“Gotcha: An Exposé on the Philippine Government” is available as e-book and paperback. Book orders accepted at Shopee: https://shopee.ph/GOTCHA-(Paperback)-by-Jarius-Bondoc-i.264837039.3870254862

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