CNN Philippines : Lawmakers urged: Propose restrictions to substitution, don't ban it

14 October 2021

By Currie Cator | CNN Philippines

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 14) — ​The poll body remains firm that the voluntary substitution option for political aspirants should not be removed, despite growing calls from several members of Congress.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said instead of banning the provision altogether, lawmakers should consider coming up with specific limitations.

"What needs to happen is that Congress should introduce restrictions of some sort on the exercise of the statutory privilege of substitution," said James Jimenez, spokesperson of the agency, in a tweet.

Section 77 of the Omnibus Election Code allows a candidate of a registered or accredited party to be substituted in case of death, disqualification, or withdrawal.

Unlike the first two cases or death and disqualification, withdrawal calls for voluntary substitution.

Senate President Tito Sotto and Senator Koko Pimentel have both sounded the alarm on the withdrawal option being "abused" by some parties.

Jimenez said he believes in the importance of the provision, although he admitted that it is being used as a "strategy."

"I deplore the thinking that results in this 'strategy,' but [I've] also seen the intrinsic worth of the system of substitution," he said.

Jimenez, apparently commenting on the substitution scheme, also tweeted: "There was a time when these negotiations happened behind closed doors, before the deadline for filing [certificates of candidacy] passed."

"Now, though, it's all being played out in the open, and it makes the public uncomfortable seeing what used to be hidden from them," he added.

Some aspirants who filed their candidacies are speculated to be just "placeholders" until the November 15 substitution deadline.

Among them are Sen. Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa, who is vying for the presidency under the Cusi faction of the ruling PDP-Laban, as well as the presidential and vice presidential candidates of the Lakas-CMD.

Dela Rosa admitted he wants Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte to take his place, while Lakas-CMD's Prospero Pichay said the party is still open to having the presidential daughter as its substitute standard bearer.

On Thursday, Deputy Speaker and Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Rufus Rodriguez filed House Bills 10380 and 10381 on prohibiting substitution of candidates and declaring incumbent officials resigned upon filing, respectively.