Why substitution should be disallowed


FAIR COMMENT | Alito L. Malinao

In one of his recent statements, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, president of the Cusi-wing of the PDP-Laban party, had still expressed hope that Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio would change her mind and run for president by substituting Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa who has filed his candidacy for president.

According to Cusi this still be possible before the November 15 deadline for substitution if Mayor Sara would join the PDP-Laban. Substitution under the law could only be done if both candidates would come from the same party.

Cusi’s undying optimism for the tandem of Mayor Sara as president and Senator Bong Go as vice president to push through is commendable even if it is against all odds considering that even his boss, President Duterte, has already said with finality that his daughter would rather run for her last term as mayor of Davao City than run for president.

Mr. Duterte himself is a beneficiary of the substitution process which is now being questioned by the country’s top legal minds as a travesty of our democratic processes. In 2016 after his prolonged indecision to seek the presidency, Duterte finally decided to run and substituted now Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Martin Dino who ran for president under the PDP-Laban.

Still a conundrum

Last week, Mayor Carpio visited Cebu City where she met with former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos who is running for president. After meeting with BBM and his sister, Senator Imee Marcos, Sara was still non-committal on her final decision.

But in a text message to lawyer Bruce Rivera, one of her supporters, the Mayor told him to wait. “Kadiyot ha kay gahunahuna pa ko. (Wait for a while, I’m still thinking.)

Is Mayor Sara’s statement an indication that she would run as a substitute for dela Rosa? We will only know the answer on or before November 15.


Indeed, there is now a need to discard this anomalous way of changing candidates for expediency or to circumvent the law.

In his recent column in the Daily Inquirer former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban said he believes the elections would be a lot simpler and predictable if the option for substitution is removed by the Commission on Elections.

Panganiban said the option for political parties to switch up candidates for any post should be removed outrightly except for one extreme circumstance. “I think the better solution is to abolish substitution for any reason except the death of the candidate,” Panganiban said.

Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal said that a candidate who files a certificate of candidacy (COC) for the sole purpose of reserving the position for a substitute should be declared a nuisance bet for mocking the electoral process.

Section 77 of the Omnibus Election Code (reinforced by Comelec Resolution No. 10717, Aug. 18, 2021) states that “an official candidate of a registered PP” who withdraws after Oct. 8 may be substituted “only [by] a person belonging to, and certified by, the same PP” of the candidate who withdrew.

As practiced by many politicians, the substitute can be sworn in as a member of the PP or coalition right before the substitution.

Since substitution is allowed under the Omnibus Election Code, there is a need to the amend the law and specifically allow substitution only in case of death of the candidate.

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