Political moves bring frenzy to the electoral process

Published November 15, 2021, 12:05 AM

by Manila Bulletin


Pending any “acts of God” that may happen before the Commission on Election (COMELEC) closes its door today, Nov. 15, 2021, we would finally (“finally” is the operative word here) have our official list of candidates for the 2022 national election. All doors and windows close for any candidate substitution, withdrawal, or any surprise moves.

Last-minute substitution, which some political pundits have credited to contribute to the victory of the current President, is not against the law. It may be a strategy or a power move to stifle the momentum of opponents. But are we, the electorate, still surprised with this? Or are we already fatigued enough to even care or bother? The events at the COMELEC office last Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021, illustrated the frenzy of multiple substitutions, reflected on the rise and fall of emotions especially of supporters who are on the opposing sides of the political spectrum. Again, it is any candidates’ right to withdraw — or to put forth — their names as a candidate for a specific position. One’s political fate moves with the submission or withdrawal of a piece of paper, which is the Certificate of Candidacy.

These kinds of scenarios would not be the last. After the 2022 election comes the 2025 midterm election and, again, all forms of strategies will come into play, including substitutions. At that time, the heads of the COMELEC staff would spin so fast with multiple substitution papers flying in and out of their desk on deadline day.

We, the people, do not have to be subjected to that kind of play. A few weeks ago, five senators filed Senate Bill No. 2439 seeking to ban the option of substitution for candidates who voluntarily withdraw his or her candidacy. The bill aims to amend the Omnibus Election Code to remove withdrawal as one of the valid reasons for a candidate’s substitution.

In the bill’s explanatory note, the authors said that this “withdrawal” was abused over the years and that this is a “mockery” of the electoral process. “This unfortunate process of just fielding anyone to be a party’s candidate for the sake of complying with the COMELEC’s deadline is observed by some as a mockery of the process of filing certificates of candidacies.” It added that the “vigilance and compliance over deadlines have been disregarded as the option for substitution is available.” This bill, which also has a counterpart filed in Congress, may or may not be a game changer. But this would diminish the unreasonable advantages that political parties may have. More than that, it respects the electorate – candidates who file a COC are presumed to be “serious” in their intent to serve the nation and they would not be “substituted” at the last minute for any political exigencies.

After today, the next stage of the electoral process would see the COMELEC release an official candidates’ list. Soon, ballots will be printed and the official campaign season will commence in February 2022. This will reach fever pitch on the eighth of May 2022 when an estimated 63 million Filipinos will cast their votes.

During election day, before shading any oval, recall the events of these past few days and observe the character of the candidates during the filing process. Decipher their words and promises. Check the people surrounding them. Look at the way they strategize or fall apart. The filing of the COC may be a very mundane requirement, but it already reflects the kind of leadership that we could expect from a candidate in the next six years.