FILE—President Duterte at the Holocaust Memorial Park in Rishon Lezion, Israel on Sept. 5, 2018 with his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio and Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go. Duterte, Duterte-Carpio and Go are among the 10 candidates running as substitutes in the 2022 elections. KARL NORMAN ALONZO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

THE COMMISSION on Elections (Comelec) should revise rules on candidate substitution to prevent election aspirants from exploiting loopholes, political analysts from UST said.

Asst. Prof. Dennis Coronacion, chairman of the UST Department of Political Science, and election law professor Enrique de la Cruz said the Comelec should be stricter on the withdrawal and substitution of candidates.

Itong substitution na ‘to, if hindi ‘to ma-amend, I think this is going to be a major part of our elections,” Coronacion told the Varsitarian.

Sa akin lang, they have given so much freedom to our politicians and so many options. Given the circus-like scenario that we saw [recently], this should give us more reason to be strict,” he added.

De la Cruz, a municipal councilor in Bulacan, said the Comelec should limit the period of substitution to a period not exceeding the filing of certificates of candidacy.

Coronacion proposed an amendment to disallow replacements or substitutes for candidates who decide to voluntarily withdraw. 

“Mere withdrawal lang. Dapat wala na ‘yung mga option. Dapat wala na rin ‘yung sobrang laking freedom na binibigay sa kanila para maging parte ng political strategy,” he said.

De la Cruz said amending election guidelines would not take much time as the Comelec possessed full authority to implement election rules.

“We just need a Comelec resolution to change the previous Comelec resolution. And how fast can that be? Well, tomorrow they can do it because the Comelec has sole authority to promulgate rules affecting elections,” he said. 

The use of substitution by voluntary withdrawal was most famously seen in 2016, when Martin Diño, a barangay chairman at the time, backed out from the presidential race and was replaced by Rodrigo Duterte.

“It was spontaneous. There was no plan to deceive the people there. Pero ngayon kasi, now that it has turned into a strategy by the politicians, parang there is an element of deception there,” Coronacion said. 

Why political drama works

Coronacion also said the substitution of candidates through the withdrawal provision of the election rules was being used as a “marketing strategy” to entice voters to support certain candidates.

May appeal ‘yong ganong klaseng candidate, kasi nga, it’s part of Philippine political culture that, you know, our voters are not really fond of voting for candidates who are very aggressive. They would rather elect political leaders who […] manifest a certain level of indifference toward the idea of running for public office,” Coronacion said.

Such a strategy, according to Coronacion, can also affect voter turnout by attracting or discouraging individuals from voting, especially the “die-hard” supporters.

The UST political science chairman said voters should be able to see whether candidates were being sincere and authentic.

Edmund Tayao, a professor from the Ateneo School of Government, said that Philippine politics remained focused on personalities rather than parties or political platforms.

“[A] political system supposedly identifies procedures, institutional procedures like party conventions and nominations, and so on. And supposedly institutional processes. But all those are not present in the Philippines. Everything depends on the personality,” Tayao, a former political science professor in UST, told the Varsitarian.

Coronacion said deception as an election gimmick bastardizes the meaning of elections.

Such campaign tactics may also preoccupy candidates with gimmicks rather than platforms, policies, and agenda.

“So nawawala yung faith sa electoral process […] and it’s a sad thing. Pag naging ganyan ang pananaw ng mga tao that they had lost faith on our election process, baka bumaba ang ating voting turnout. Sa ngayon parang nae-entertain pa sila e,” Coronacion said.

For the coming 2022 elections, Comelec has recorded 10 substitution bids for national positions as of Nov. 15.

Candidates who withdrew included Sen. Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa from the presidential race, Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go from the vice-presidential race and broadcaster Noli de Castro from the Senate race. 

Substitute candidates include President Duterte for senator, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio for vice president, former anti-communist insurgency task force spokesman Antonio Parlade Jr. for president, Go for president, former police chief Guillermo Eleazar for senator, and former Palace spokesman Harry Roque for senator.

“Because of the developments and because of what took place back in 2016, I think it’s about time for our legislators to amend that part of the election law,” Coronacion said.   

“Elections should be done in a very simple way because it’s meant to allow the people to choose their next set of leaders… [Once] the voters get confused, I think it’s going to affect the integrity of the election results,” he added.


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