Comelec body: Substitution ‘prone to abuse’ by politicians in 2019 polls
The First Division of the Commision on Elections (Comelec) has opined that the process of substitution, as currently worded in the Omnibus Election Code (OEC), may lead to “bastardization” of the selection process of candidates who will be fielded during elections.
In its decision which dismissed the disqualification petitions against Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Comelec commissioners Christian Robert Lim, Ma. Rowena Amelia Guanzon and Luie Tito Guia admitted that substitution is “prone to abuse.”
“The Commission is well aware of the fact that the provision is prone to abuse and may even lead to the bastardization of the entire process involved in the selection of candidates by the various political parties in existence to ensure their victory in the polls,” the decision read.
They said that substitution is “in a way, an unlawful extension” of the prescribed period for the filing of certificates of candidacy (COC).
“Petitioners David and Delas Nieves are correct in saying that to allow substitution is, in a way, an unlawful extension of the period set in Resolution No. 9981 and 9984 for the filing of certificates of candidacy,” the ruling said.
The Comelec body also expressed apprehension that since the process of substitution has been brought to the spotlight, politicians seeking office in the 2019 elections might abuse it.
“Now the concept is well-known and discussed the Commission is certain that by the 2019 elections, many candidates, as well as political parties, will use the leeway allowed in Section 77 to its fullest allowable extent,” the decision read.
The commissioners even touched on the fact that the filing of COC of former Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Laban ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) presidential bet Martin Diño was “manifestly for the benefit of Duterte” who was not yet sure if he would run for president.
Diño then withdrew his COC to give way for Duterte, a party-mate in PDP-Laban.
Section 77 of the OEC states that: “If after the last day for the filing of certificates of candidacy, an official candidate of a registered or accredited political party dies, withdraws or is disqualified for any cause, only a person belonging to, and certified by, the same political party may file a certificate of candidacy to replace the candidate who died, withdrew or was disqualified.”
On its part, the Comelec officials said that the burden to rectify the loopholes in Section 77 lies with Congress.
“At the end of the day, any and all attempts to amend Section 77 by addressing its loopholes and restricting the possible abuse in its application is more properly subject of legislation, rather than this Commission’s rule-making power,” it read.
The four petitions to disqualify the feisty mayor from the presidential race are hinged on the fact that there was invalid substitution on the part of Duterte because of Diño’s supposedly defective COC. Diño indicated in his COC that he was running for Pasay City mayor but intended to run for president.
In a unanimous decision, the Comelec body on Wednesday found that Diño filed a valid COC and that the subsequent substitution by Duterte is likewise valid.
However, Guanzon will pen a separate opinion on the matter.
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