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‘Stop the farce’ of having 2 deadlines for election bets – Rep. Rufus Rodriguez

/ 04:57 AM October 27, 2021

The Commission on Elections’ tent at the Sofitel hotel in Pasay City. INQUIRER file photo / RICHARD A. REYES

MANILA, Philippines — No amount of regulation of the substitution rule could prevent a mockery of the election in the country as long as candidates who withdraw from the race can be replaced, Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said on Tuesday.

“Candidates should decide ahead of time and be sure if they are running to file at least on the deadline. They cannot put somebody there because they are still thinking and still deciding on it,” Rodriguez said.

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Rodriguez, who had filed a bill limiting candidate substitutions only on grounds of death or disqualification, was reacting to comments made by Commission on Election (Comelec) spokesperson James Jimenez who said the poll body was “not really” against the rule allowed by law on substitution by withdrawal.

“We see substitution as a necessary remedy under the law. What would perhaps be a better idea is if Congress were to introduce some controls, some sort of regulation because right now the law is pretty wide open,” Jimenez said in a television interview on Monday.

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Rodriguez said there was “nothing sacrosanct” about Section 77 of the Omnibus Election Code, which allows the substitution of candidates on grounds of death, disqualification, or withdrawal.

“Mr. Jimenez was saying let’s just put some regulation. There’s no regulation. It’s either we have that, or we don’t have that,” he told reporters in a Zoom interview.

“Experience has shown us that this has been abused and it has made a mockery of our election system,” he said. “Experience has shown us that it’s about time that we have to amend it.”

Senate backing

He and the Makabayan bloc filed separate bills to remove withdrawal as a ground for substitution.

On Monday, Senators Nancy Binay, Sherwin Gatchalian, Grace Poe, Joel Villanueva and Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri filed a similar bill. The senators also said that provision has been abused for years.

But Jimenez said substitution due to a withdrawal should be kept in the law.

“Perhaps additional restrictions could be put in place, short of actually removing that right because that right, we believe, is essential to the elections,” he said.

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Rodriguez said that the Comelec could not come out with a final list of candidates soon after the Oct. 8 deadline for the filing of certificates of candidacy (COCs) because it had set a second deadline—Nov. 15—for any substitution.

Rodriguez stressed the need to “stop the farce” of having two deadlines.

“This should be the last time so that it would be easier for Comelec that there will be a complete list after only one deadline, and then people can already decide whom to support,” he said.

“After the deadline, it should be over. The party should be able to get candidates who are really intending to run for the elections,” Rodriguez said.

‘Placeholders’

Due to the substitution provision, aspiring candidates can get “placeholders” from their political party who file their COCs but eventually withdraw to give way to the real aspirants.

The law requires substitutes to belong to the same political party, but Jimenez acknowledged that even a nonparty member can substitute for a candidate due to the weak political party system.

“Right now, people can actually switch political parties in order to make a substitution happen. That weakness of the political party system is in fact a loophole,” he said.

“A person who is running independent, can actually join a political party and then substitute for someone before the end of the substitution period,” he said.

Political appointees can take advantage of the rule to postpone their automatic resignation from office, while politicians can still substitute for another in order to run for a different post.

Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, the standard-bearer of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan, earlier admitted that he was a last-minute pick and that he was open to being replaced by President Duterte’s daughter, Sara Duterte, who had already filed her COC for a third term as Davao City mayor.

Over the weekend, Mayor Duterte met with former Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., a presidential aspirant, amid speculation that they might end up as running mates. She also met with Dela Rosa.

—WITH A REPORT FROM DONA Z. PAZZIBUGAN  INQ
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