De Lima seeks amendment to candidate substitution rule

Published December 7, 2021, 2:53 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Opposition Senator Leila de Lima has joined other senators in seeking to amend the law governing the substitution of candidates for the national and local elections to prevent abuses in the country’s election processes.

In filing Senate Bill No. 2461, De Lima said substitution due to withdrawal must be more limited in scope than substitution due to death and disqualification.

“The Omnibus Election Code recognizes the importance of our party system and our political parties and therefore, provides for an opportunity for political parties to replace their candidates before the elections,” De Lima said.

“It can readily be gleaned that the practice of substituting candidates with individuals who were not party members, but only belatedly, even up to the point of taking their oath as party member only on the date of the filing of the substitute certificate of candidacy, is an outright bastardization of the privilege of substitution accorded by the law to political parties,” she also said.

Under the bill, the senator specifically sought to amend Sec. 77 of the Omnibus Election Code and incorporating the modifications introduced by Sec. 12 of Republic Act No. 9006 or Fair Elections Act in light of election automation and printed ballots.

De Lima noted how some parties would often resort to fielding “placeholders” or nominating persons who have no real intention to run for office, with the clear intent of substituting a different candidate during the period provided for by law.

“In order to prevent this from happening, the Comelec(Commission on Elections) should be able to determine whether these ‘placeholders’ are nuisance candidates in spite of substitution, which, in turn would void the substitution by the political party which nominated them,” she said.

The measure also requires that the substitute of a candidate who withdrew his candidacy must, at the very least, already be a member of the political party of the candidate withdrawing at the time of the filing of the latter’s certificate of candidacy (COC).

“This would preclude the now prevalent practice of political parties filing nuisance candidacies of party members, but only as placeholders to strong and popular candidates of other political parties or who are otherwise independent, in anticipation that their political party will be the one eventually picked by the strong and prominent candidate,” she said.

“This practice of last-minute party-hopping or party-hunting during and even after the original Comelec period for filing certificates of candidacies has ended must stop now, as it puts to shame even ordinary and regular party-hopping done several months or weeks before the filing of certificates of candidacy,” De Lima added.

She also proposed that the substitution, in case of withdrawal, be made prior to the printing of the ballots.

“Kailangang matigil na ang ganitong sistema ng panlilinlang sa taumbayan ng mga indibidwal at partidong akala mo ay kontrolado nila ang batas kung kanilang paglaruan at paikut-ikutin (This system of deceiving the people put in place by individuals and parties who think they control the law and can use it for their means should stop),” the lawmaker stressed.