This is it

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

Today is supposed to be the last day for withdrawal and substitution of candidates before the Commission on Elections (Comelec). Our politicians love the flair for dramatic turn of events. Cashing in our typical Filipino “mañana” habit of delaying what can be done today, we saw the last-minute withdrawal of the certificates of candidacies (COCs) for the national and local elections on May 9, 2022.

President Rodrigo Duterte is reportedly set to beat the deadline today.

It is not yet clear to whom President Duterte will substitute for and for what position. The fractious ruling administration PDP-Laban is currently still stuck in an intra-party row pending before the Comelec.

It was only last Oct. 1 to 8 when these COCs were filed. So what happened from that time on until today?

Earlier drafted to run as PDP-Laban vice presidential (VP) bet, President Duterte withdrew in favor of his long-time aide, Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go. Lately, the PDP-Laban revealed President Duterte will run instead in the Senate race.

Subsequently, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio asked her younger brother Sebastian last Thursday to withdraw from the vice mayoral race. She, in turn, withdrew from her own re-election bid as Davao City Mayor. The incumbent Vice Mayor substituted for his sister Sara in the mayoral race. The next day, Mayor Sara resigned as chairman and founder of her own regional political party, the Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP).

As it turned out later that day, she jumped to the Lakas-Christian/Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD). House majority leader, Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez and Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. who are the Lakas-CMD president and chairman, respectively, swore her in as member. This was after she attended with ex-Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. as partner among the wedding sponsors of Revilla’s daughter in Cavite. Marcos is the presidential standard-bearer of the Partido Federal.

Then we saw the next chapter of the political drama unfolding before our eyes. Through her designated representative, Mayor Sara supposedly filed as a substitute VP candidate. She replaced a certain Lyle Uy who filed COC as VP bet of the Lakas-CMD. Spurned as a runningmate, Marcos adopted Mayor Sara as VP bet for Partido Federal.

Let us give benefit of the doubt to the presidential daughter she really did some soul-searching and discernment before making her final decision.

Last Saturday, it was the turn of Malacañang-controlled PDP-Laban wing that had Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa as their last-minute presidential standard-bearer and Go as VP bet. Dela Rosa admitted he was just instructed by the party leadership to do so on the last day of filing COC. He reiterated his desire to see Mayor Sara run instead for the presidency. Withdrawing his COC, Dela Rosa frankly conceded: “Party decision. I just follow orders.”

Accompanied again at the Comelec by President Duterte, Go withdrew his VP bid and instead substituted as presidential standard-bearer for the Pederalismo ng Dugong Dakilang Samahan (PDDS). Go “stepped up” as presidential aspirant substituting PDDS bet Grepor Belgica, father of ex-anti-graft chief Greco Belgica, one of the PDP-Laban senatorial candidates. Accredited by Comelec in 2018, the PDDS entered into alliance with PDP-Laban just a month ago.

If there’s the proverbial dark horse in this presidential race, Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson stands out. Lacson along with his VP runningmate Senate president Vicente “Tito” Sotto III were the first to launch their tandem a month before the official filing of COCs. Although from among these candidates, Lacson belatedly decided to run for the presidency, for the second time around.

A member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class 1971, Lacson wishes to fulfill a historical feat to be the “first PMAer” to become the country’s President. After all, we had former president Fidel Ramos who graduated from America’s premier military school West Point Academy.

Lacson echoed this wish when he and Sotto were guests in my Kapihan sa Manila Bay virtual news forum last September while they were still putting together their platform of government to present to voters. At that time, Lacson was in the process of assuming as president of Partido Reporma chaired by former Speaker, Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez. On the other hand, Sotto is the chieftain of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC).

Lacson turned to politics when he first run and won as a Senator in the May 2001 elections. It was a few months after he opted an early retirement from the police service. He retired as the Director-General of the Philippine National Police (PNP) following the ouster of former president Joseph Estrada in January that year. In the middle of his term as Senator, Lacson run in the May 2004 presidential election under the divided Laban ng Demokatikong Pilipino (LDP). But he lost.

Fast forward. Two months into the unofficial campaign period for next year’s polls, Lacson is the only aspirant in the field who has gained more grounds in credible presidential surveys. Lacson’s campaign team under Partido Reporma is showing its strength. The Senator has jumped into double-digit percentage shares in the surveys from low single-digit numbers in September after he declared his candidacy for Malacañang.

What does this means? Apparently, it shows Lacson’s message of budget reforms, empowering the local government unit (LGU) over managing public funds, and experience in governance find support among Filipino voters.

Withdrawal and substitution of candidates are supposed to be over after today. But our country’s election laws are very liberal. The candidates are still allowed to change their minds to withdraw from their bids at any time before election day. However, no more substitution.

Substitution of candidate is only allowed again on election day itself. But this is in case of death, or incapacity and, if the substitute bet has the same surname of the deceased.

So this is it for now until on election on May 9, 2022.

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