Gatchalian files bill to amend substitution rule for candidates

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 25) – A lawmaker seeks to ban the substitution of candidates who voluntarily withdraw their candidacies in elections.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian filed Senate Bill 2439 to amend Section 77 of the Omnibus Election Code, which gives the privilege to a candidate who belongs to the same political party to file for substitution.

Under the present provision, a political aspirant can be replaced due to the candidate's death, disqualification, or withdrawal.

But Gatchalian noted that the reason of withdrawal for substitution has been abused by many candidates.

"This unfortunate practice of just fielding anyone to be a party's candidate for the sake of complying with the Comelec deadline is observed by some as a mockery of the process of filing certificates of candidacies," said Gatchalian.

In Gatchalian's proposed measure, the words "withdrawal," "withdraws," and "withdrew" stated in Section 77 of the Omnibus Election Code were deleted.

The senator also proposed incapacity as a ground for substitution of the original candidate.

The bill also aims to strengthen and institutionalize the country's political party system to level the playing field among aspirants for political office.

"Substitution by withdrawal is only allowed when the candidate is a member of a political party. This gives an unreasonable advantage to political parties at the expense of independent candidates," added Gatchalian.

Deputy Speaker and Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez filed a similar measure in the House of Representatives recently. 

The Commission on Elections has set the deadline of substitution of candidates for the May 2022 elections on Nov. 15.

President Rodrigo Duterte is one of the beneficiaries of the contested substitution option after he replaced Martin Diño, who withdrew his candidacy for president, as the standard bearer of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) during the 2016 elections.

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 presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte if she decides to vie for the presidency in 2022.