Juxtaposed: Candidacy ‘backdoor negotiations’ before with ‘open play’ now

October 13, 2021 - 9:45 PM
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Two women bringing election paraphernalia (The STAR/Miguel de Guzman)

Commission on Elections spokesperson James Jimenez wrote a post about the shift in behavior of politicians and parties around the dates of the filing of candidacies.

Jimenez said political negotiations used to be clandestine but now speculations that some political aspirants who filed for certificates of candidacy, or COC, are simply “placeholders” for substitution until the November 15 deadline are commonplace.

“There was a time when these negotiations happened behind closed doors, before the deadline for filing COCs passed,” he said.

“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.

While Jimenez did not identify which negotiations he was referring to, some Twitter users assumed it to be pertaining to the substitution policy of the poll body.

They argued that these negotiations on political candidates disrespect the voting public.

“But when (1) a candidate admits he was just informed and directed by his party to file two hours before the deadline, and (2) a party admits its candidates are just placeholders, that’s an insult to the voting public,” one user said.

“And people allowed this to happen behind closed doors. Because it’s covered by law…made by the same people who benefit from it. Time to change the law then. We should have more respect for the process,” another user wrote.

Veteran actor Jaime Fabregas also joined in the criticisms, saying: “Don’t you see something wrong, Mr. Jimenez? Does it seem alright with you?”

The poll body’s spokesperson later responded that he still believes in the importance of substitution.

Jimenez, however, pointed out that Congress should introduce restrictions to the rules instead of removing the policy altogether.

“I deplore the thinking that results in this ‘strategy,’ but I also see the intrinsic worth of the system of substitution. What needs to happen is that Congress should introduce restrictions of some sort, on the exercise of the statutory privilege of substitution,” he said.

Proposals to amend or ban substitution

Based on Comelec’s guidelines, political aspirants who have filed their candidacies can be substituted after the COC filing period on the following conditions:

  • The candidate dies
  • The candidate withdraws
  • The candidate is disqualified by Comelec

A substitute candidate can file for COC until November 15.

Meanwhile, substitutes of fielded candidates who have died or were disqualified can file their candidacies from November 16 to May 9, 2022.

These replacements should also belong to and be nominated by the political party or coalition of the fielded candidates.

Given the loopholes in the rules, House deputy speaker Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro 2nd District) on October 12 sought for an “absolute ban” on the substitution option, citing the tendency of political parties not to take the COC process seriously.

“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 in an interview with CNN Philippines.

Rodriguez also seeks to revive the policy that required incumbent officials to resign from their posts upon formalizing their political bids.

Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto, a vice-presidential aspirant, also called for the amendment of the Omnibus Election Code to remove the provision on substitution.

Sen. Bato dela Rosa who suddenly filed his candidacy for president under the ruling PDP-Laban on Friday, October 8 was being seen as a placeholder for Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.

When asked about this possibility, Dela Rosa was all too willing to be her placeholder.

“Edi mas maganda… this is a party decision, this is not my personal decision,” he said.

READ: ‘Substitution’ speculation floats as Bato dela Rosa files COC for president 

Lakas-CMD, one of the oldest political parties in the country, also admitted to ABS-CBN News that the candidates they had pushed to file for COCs are just proxies.

Lakas-CMD secretary-general Prospero Pichay later denied this and said: “I did not say (placeholders), I said we have a presidential candidate but we can still negotiate with other candidates. In effect, I’m saying we put up a candidate, but if there are other candidates whose ratings are high, then we can consider them.”