EDITORIAL – Placeholders

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL â Placeholders

While certificates of candidacy have been filed for national positions, the situation remains fluid. As some politicians and their parties themselves have confirmed, they are waiting for possible last-minute substitutions. This is allowed until Nov. 15.

Critics say the use of placeholders for these last-minute switching should serve as basis for declaring the placeholder as a nuisance candidate.

Section 69 of the Omnibus Election Code or Batas Pambansa 881 defines a nuisance candidate as one who files a certificate “to put the election process in mockery or disrepute or to cause confusion among the voters by the similarity of the names of the registered candidates or by 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 thus prevent a faithful determination of the true will of the electorate.”

The Commission on Elections, on its own volition or with a verified petition, can reject such a candidate. On the other hand, one aspirant seen as a placeholder has stressed that the Comelec will be hard-pressed to prove an intent to mock the electoral process, or the absence of a “bona fide intention” to pursue the candidacy.

Involuntary substitution is allowed until noon of election day itself, but only for candidates with the same surnames and belonging to the same political party. This means the substitution is being made because the original candidate has been disqualified, incapacitated for example by illness or accident, or has died.

Bills have been filed seeking a total ban on voluntary substitutions, or giving the Comelec more teeth in the determination of nuisance candidates. There is also a proposal to require all officials, including those occupying elective posts, to resign upon filing of candidacy.

The passage of a law banning last-minute voluntary substitutions, however, can no longer cover the current election season. What voters can do is consider the implications. Resorting to last-minute substitutions and allowing oneself to become a placeholder provide insights into the character of a candidate and the nature of a political party. These are useful to bear in mind in making choices on election day.

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