The ‘substitutes’

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

What does retired Philippine National Police (PNP) Director-General Guillermo Eleazar and former Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) chairman Reynold Munsayac have in common? Both are running in next year’s elections after their stints in the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. Eleazar is vying for the Senate while Munsayac is running as a party list representative in the coming May 9, 2022 elections.

Although former appointees of President Duterte, both however, are not running as administration candidates.

Eleazar, a Philippine Military Academy Graduate (PMA) Class 1987, rose to become the country’s top cop this year, albeit for a short tenure only due to the mandatory age of retirement for police chiefs. A day after his retirement, he was sworn in as party member by Partido Reporma chieftain Sen. Panfilo Lacson who himself was once the PNP chief and a fellow PMAer.

On the other hand, the President designated Munsayac as PCGG chairman until he resigned last July 31 this year. During his five years at the helm of the PCGG, Munsayac claimed they were able to recover P3.5 billion of ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses and his alleged cronies. He took a rest before plunging to politics to run as first nominee of the Act As One Philippines party list. According to Munsayac, the Act As One was organized in 2018 and registered with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) as a party list group advocating for health and social justice.

At the Kapihan sa Manila Bay virtual news forum last Wednesday, Eleazar and Munsayac outlined their respective legislative advocacies in the next Congress that they intend to present to Filipino voters in their pursuit of elective posts next year.

As the senatorial bet of the Partido Demokratiko, Eleazar will be facing President Duterte in the 12-man Senate race. President Duterte substituted as a senatorial candidate in his own party called as the Pederalismo ng Dugong Dakilang Samahan (PDDS) under an alliance with the fractious ruling political party PDP-Laban. Like the President, Eleazar filed his certificate of candidacy (COC) during the last day of filing for substitution last Nov.15 at the Comelec.

In the case of Eleazar, he admitted, it was really a last-minute decision for him to enter politics. It was only after his family gave their whole-hearted support to his possible run for elective post. He initially shunned certain quarters grooming him to run for elective post while he was still then a high-profile PNP chief. But it was only Lacson, he recalled, who actually opened up the avenue for his possible Senate run. Eleazar was offered the Senate slot of the Partido Reporma vacated by the withdrawal of former journalist Paolo “Powee” Capino. Citing very slim to nil chance of winning, Capino withdrew from the Senate race.

Although a belated candidate, Eleazar has not lost any grounds while his rivals in the Senate race got a head start in the campaign trail. During his active service until he retired as PNP chief, Eleazar had practically stayed and travelled all around the Philippines in various police posts he had handled. One of which was to head the National Task Force (NTF) implementing the government’s quarantine and health protocols to control the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it was only last Saturday (Nov. 20) that Eleazar was able to set foot at Pag-asa island in the Kalayaan Island Group where he joined the visit there of Lacson and other Partido Reporma leaders. Eleazar noted with amusement that the faraway police post still had, in fact, his name as the PNP chief after he retired already last Nov. 12. Currently, he was told, there are two policemen stationed in Pag-asa Island on rotation basis coming from the main police forces based in Puerto Princesa in Palawan.

The island is home to more than 100 residents, mostly soldiers and their families composing its lone barangay. A remote island just off Palawan, Pag-asa is our country’s stronghold along the West Philippine Sea where there are other country claimants such as China and Vietnam.

The Marikina-based Act As One Philippines represented by Munsayac, on the other hand, is among the 144 out of 270 party list groups that were qualified by the Comelec to join in next year’s national elections. Party list groups are elected on national basis. Yesterday, the Comelec denied with finality the disqualification of 76 party list groups.

Munsayac credited Act As One in putting up the first two quarantine facilities in Metro Manila following the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic last year. This is why, he pointed out, their party list group intends to pursue health and social justice amid the lingering COVID-19 pandemic that have dislocated the lives of the Filipino people, especially the marginal sectors of our society.

The Act As One quarantine facilities were put up at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City. After all, he is an alumnus at UP where he took up his pre-law degree. Munsayac graduated from San Sebastian College of Law as class valedictorian with presidential daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio among his classmates.

Incidentally, Munsayac disclosed, it was him and his wife-lawyer who filed the COC of Mayor Sara as substitute vice presidential (VP) candidate of the Lakas-CMD on the eve of the Comelec deadline. Subsequently, ex-Sen.Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. who is the presidential standard-bearer of Partido Federal adopted Mayor Sara as VP runningmate.

The erstwhile chief ill-gotten wealth hunter against the Marcoses invoked the legal obligation to respect the “voice of the people” as reflected in whatever would be outcome of the coming presidential polls. “This is a political process. This is a political question to be resolved by the people in their capacity as voters,” he pointed out.

Does this extend to Mayor Sara’s previous political stand “only one Duterte” must run as a national candidate? Father and daughter filed as “substitutes.” Does this exculpate her from this political question?

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