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Opinion

Substitution

FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno - The Philippine Star

Today or tomorrow, things will be clear. In the meantime, we are back to the edge of our seats.

Last Tuesday, all the political Viber groups I belong to exploded with the news. First, Baste Duterte withdrew as Davao City vice mayoral candidate. Shortly after, Sara Duterte withdrew her candidacy for city mayor, endorsing her brother for the post.

The twin withdrawals would have otherwise been news of mere local importance except that Sara is now free to do other things. Having withdrawn her candidacy for mayor, all options are now open.

She will, of course, seek a national post. The only remaining suspense is whether she will run for president or vice president.

Seeking either of the top two posts was never inevitable. Contrary to the wild conspiracy theorists peddled by the poorly informed, there is no master playwright with a handy script here. Sara’s most ardent supporters hung by the thinnest of threads after the Davao City mayor declared she was staying on in Davao.

There were numerous impediments along Sara’s electoral path, not the least of which was her father.

First, the elder Duterte decreed the presidency was too harsh a job for his dear daughter. Then he decided he would run for vice president, putting in play a family agreement that only one of them would seek a national post. After that, he decided he did not want to seek the post after all and endorsed his loyal aide as his candidate of choice.

The sitting president was making haphazard decisions from the womb of his increasingly diminished universe. His courtesans, however, were unflinchingly executing every play called by their enfeebled coach. That was until it became clear that all these plays were leading the merry band to the dustbin.

It was while her father was insisting on calling all the shots that Sara Duterte remarked “the ship has left.” Whatever political plan she might have had was abandoned. She thanked her ardent supporters, basically signaling the army of volunteers to disband.

Sara’s contest with her father was like an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. Both father and daughter were of the same stubborn stuff.

The fact that Sara now appears to be reentering the national electoral stage can only mean the immovable object has finally relented.

“Relented” might even be an understatement. On the afternoon Sara withdrew her candidacy for mayor, Rodrigo’s surrogate Bong Go broke down while speaking before a crowd. The next morning, PDP-Laban president Al Cusi issued the lamest of statements, saying Sara’s “actions, including any decision to run for a national elective office, will most certainly affect the political landscape.”

Of course it will. The immovable object evaporated.

Troubled

The paperwork for Sara Duterte to seek a national post by way of substitution will probably be routine. In Camarines Sur, the attempt by one candidate to enter the game by way of substitution will likely be troubled.

According to the grapevine, Rolando Andaya Jr., who filed as a candidate for representative, is likely to withdraw and run instead as provincial governor. To replace Andaya Jr. is his sister, former Pasig Mayor Maria Belen Andaya-Eusebio.

There should be no problem for Andaya Jr. substituting for someone else to run for governor. But there will be tons of problems for his sister, who is domiciled in Pasig and married to the political clan that once dominated this city’s politics.

To complete the substitution maneuver, Andaya-Eusebio needs to transfer her voting records from Pasig to Barangay Poblacion in Ragay town in Camarines Sur’s first district. She needs to convince the Comelec that she has indeed become a resident of the district in which she intends to run as representative.

Precedent is not in her favor.

In 2019, the Comelec denied Andaya-Eusebio’s petition to transfer her voter records from Barangay Rosario in Pasig to Barangay Puro Batia in Libmanan, a town in Camarines Sur’s second district. At that time, she was attempting to run as representative for the province’s second district.

The first time, the Comelec en banc decided she had not established residency in the district she wanted to run in. The Comelec’s ruling was upheld by the Court of Appeals when Andaya-Eusebio tried to have the poll body’s decision reversed. It was clear to the poll body and the court that her true residence was Pasig City where she and her husband Robert alternated for the mayoral post.

Andaya-Eusebio’s case for transferring her voting records is even weaker the second time around. She asked the Comelec to transfer her voting records last Oct. 30, the last day for the extended period for voters to register. But the deadline for filing of candidacies was Oct. 8. The window for substituting candidates cannot be used as a backdoor for non-qualified candidates to enter the game.

Furthermore, the rejected attempt to transfer her voting records at the second district in 2019 provides more ground to argue she was applying to transfer residency as a matter of political convenience. That runs against the grain of district representation. This should be an open-and-close case for the poll authorities.

Two residents of the district she wants to run in have filed a petition against Andaya-Eusebio substituting for her brother Andaya Jr. in the first district. Obvious as the conclusions might be in this petition, it will still be a test case to more firmly establish the rules for residency/domicile in our election laws.

In the 2008 Limbona vs Comelec case, the Supreme Court defined three conditions in determining residency. Andaya-Eusebio meets none of them.

BASTE DUTERTE SARA DUTERTE
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