House leader bats for removal of substitution scheme

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 12) — A leader in the House of Representatives is pushing for an "almost absolute" ban on the substitution option for candidates of political parties.

Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, who sits as deputy speaker, proposed that substitution be prohibited "unless the candidate-nominee of a political party dies or is disqualified before election day."

Without dropping names, Rodriguez lamented that "some aspirants" might not be serious and qualified for the positions they are vying for.

"For the May 2022 elections, certain candidates for the presidency are perceived to be proxies for some personalities, even if they can be considered as serious aspirants," he said.

The lawmaker also wants to bring back the policy requiring incumbent officials to resign or be deemed automatically resigned upon the filing of their certificates of candidacy (COCs), whether they are running for local or national posts.

"A candidate would not agree to be a proxy for a dawdling, wavering, or indecisive aspirant if he would have to give up his office," Rodriguez said, stressing that the move will "prevent them from using their public funds and influence to promote their candidacies."

He added this will give the Commission on Elections (Comelec) more time to screen candidates and make preparations for the upcoming polls.

"Alternatively, we can move the timelines closer to election day, like setting [November 15] as the [end] of the filing period," Rodriguez said.

The filing of candidacies ended last Oct. 8.

However, under the current election law, the Comelec has to wait until the Nov. 15 substitution deadline before finalizing the roster of candidates.

The House leader said he believes his proposal will ultimately put a stop to the "manipulation and mockery of the election process."

"[This] would also make more people believe in the integrity of our elections," he added.

Sen. Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa — who filed his candidacy for the country's highest position under the Cusi-led faction of the ruling PDP-Laban party — has repeatedly said he is willing to give way to Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte if she decides to gun for the presidency.

Sought for comment, former Comelec commissioner Luie Guia cited a provision in the Omnibus Election Code, which states any person who filed his or her COC but has no real intention to run may be considered a nuisance candidate.

Comelec deliberation on nuisance bets entails a proceeding and presentation of facts. Guia said this then means any aspirant who says he does not actually mean to push through with the race runs the risk of having his candidacy canceled.

"'Pag sinabi mo 'yun diretso, then... hindi ba pruweba 'yun na hindi mo talaga gustong maging presidente?" he told CNN Philippines' News Night.

[Translation: If you say something like that directly, then isn't that evidence that you don't really want to become president?]

"A certificate of candidacy that is canceled or denied due course means that the one who filed the certificate of candidacy has never been a candidate," Guia added. "Hindi siya pwedeng ma-substitute kung hindi siya kandidato [He can't be substituted if he's not a candidate]."

Dela Rosa earlier admitted he personally wants the presidential daughter to change her mind and run in his place.

READ: Bato: 'Deep in my heart, I am hoping' for Sara's substitution

The Lakas-CMD, on the other hand, backtracked on its statement that its candidates were mere placeholders.

But the party said it is still open to Mayor Duterte as a possible substitute standard bearer if she changes her mind on her 2022 plans.

The Lakas-CMD earlier said its final picks will only be known after Nov. 15.