Comelec warned: 19th Congress may renew push for substitution amendment

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 17) — The proposal to amend the political substitution scheme may be renewed in the 19th Congress if the measures now filed in both chambers will not be processed under the current administration, an opposition senator seeking reelection said Wednesday.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros told CNN Philippines' The Source that the bills filed by her colleagues seeking to amend the Omnibus Election Code may be revived to avoid the "unfortunate spectacle" involving aspirants allied with the administration prior to the Nov 15 substitution deadline.

"Dapat talaga mareview 'yung substitute provision ng ating Omnibus Election Code kasi moving forward hindi na dapat merong mga ganyang spectacle such as we have seen in the past several days before Monday," Hontiveros said.

[Translation: The substitution provision under the Omnibus Election should be reviewed moving forward because there should not be a repeat of the spectacle that we have seen in the past several days before Monday.]

Hontiveros referred to the sudden withdrawal of candidacies by PDP-Laban tandem Sen. Bato dela Rosa and Sen. Bong Go, with the latter filing his substitution bid under another political party, hours after Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte filed her vice-presidential bid under Lakas-CMD. On Monday, her father, President Rodrigo Duterte eventually filed his candidacy for senator.

Sen. Win Gatchalian previously filed Senate Bill 2439 which seeks to amend Section 77 of the Omnibus Election Code and ban the option to substitute an aspirant who voluntarily withdraws his candidacy except for when he is incapacitated or disqualified. A counterpart bill in the House of Representatives was also filed by Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez.

Hontiveros said that if she secures her reelection bid for next year, she will continue to study the proposal, even the current scheme that allows substitution for involuntary withdrawals of aspirants with a similar surname.

"If I become a member of the next Congress, yan ang pag-aaralan ng 19th Congress ng ating republika. Pag hindi pa naipasa yung bill na iyon sa 18th Congress at ni-refile ng mga bagong authors, yan (substitution) ang talagang kailangang tingnan para hindi na maulit yung pinapaikot-ikot nga tayo nitong mga nakaraang araw," she added.

[Translation: If I become a member of the next Congress, that's what the 19th Congress will look into. Even if the current bills under the 18th Congress will not be passed and would eventually be refiled by new authors, the substitution scheme will really have to be looked into so that the people will no longer be deceived just like what happened in the past days.]

Both Senate Bill 2439 and Rodriguez's House Bill 10380 are still pending before their respective congressional committees since their filing, indicating a slim chance of being passed under the present Congress.

The Comelec has repeatedly defended the validity of the substitution scheme, noting that imposing a ban would only hold a political party hostage to the whim of an indecisive aspirant in future elections.

READ: Substitution does not harm electoral process; voluntary withdrawal a remedy for political parties -- Comelec