Comelec braces for withdrawals, substitutions galore
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will open its offices on Nov. 13, a Saturday, to await the “unprecedented” number of withdrawals and substitutions among aspirants for national positions before the Nov. 15 deadline.
On Thursday, the Comelec headquarters in Manila began to go live on Facebook, apparently in anticipation of the arrival of aspirants who have to personally file their statements of withdrawal. Their substitutes, who are required to be their political party mates, may file their own certificates of candidacy (COCs) personally or through a representative.
“At the local level this (number of withdrawals and substitutions) is pretty common, but at the national level this is sort of unprecedented,” Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said in a television interview on Thursday.
On Wednesday, Jimenez said Comelec offices would open on Saturday to avert crowding among withdrawing aspirants and their substitutes on the last day, Nov. 15, which falls on a Monday.
“We know historically that Filipinos love going on the last day. We are concerned that they may flock to the offices to withdraw since personal appearance is a requirement,” he said.
Jimenez made his announcement on the same day President Duterte’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, withdrew her COC for reelection, a move seen as indicating her intention to run for national office, after all.
While the last day of filing of certificates of candidacy was last Oct. 8, the Comelec allows voluntary withdrawal of COCs and substitutions among party mates until Nov. 15.
To be a substitute candidate, Mayor Duterte has to join one of the national political parties registered with the Comelec that fielded candidates for national positions.
On Thursday, she resigned from her Hugpong ng Pagbabago, which is not registered as a national political party.
Aspirants who said they would run as independent candidates cannot be substituted anymore once they withdraw their COC.
The Comelec is expected to release the final list of candidates in December. It said earlier that it had initiated petitions to declare as nuisance candidates 82 of 97 presidential aspirants, 15 of 28 vice presidential aspirants, and 108 of 174 senatorial aspirants.
Debates for No. 1, 2
The poll body has so far received petitions for the cancellation of the COCs of 91 prospective national candidates, including presidential aspirant Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
More changes are planned by the Comelec for the presidential and vice presidential debates ahead of the elections on May 9, 2022.
Instead of having different media outlets host the planned three rounds of debates each for presidential and vice presidential candidates, the Comelec will assign only one group as organizer.
The Comelec is also planning a “teaser” presidential debate in January, although the campaign period officially begins on Feb. 12 for national candidates and on March 29 for local candidates.
“The proposal on the table that we are discussing now is sort of different from how we used to do it before,” Jimenez said in a media briefing on Thursday.
In the 2016 elections, the Comelec held three live televised presidential debates hosted by three different media outlets. The lone vice presidential debate was hosted by a fourth media outlet.
“We are looking at a different model now, which is one organizer of the debate and everyone gets to cover it equally, like a pool[ed] coverage,” Jimenez said.
Aside from the three presidential and three vice presidential debates, the Comelec is also planning to hold a “primary debate” among the presidential candidates, “probably early in the year, sort of a teaser for the debates,” he added.
The rest of the debates will be spread out through the campaign period, or one each in February, March and April.
The Comelec earlier said the candidates would still engage one another face to face during the televised debates, but there would be no more live audience as a precaution amid the COVID-19 pandemic.