2022 poll substitutions ‘trashing’ PHL electoral system—analyst

Using spray paint, President Duterte erases the word “bise” from the tarpaulin of Senator Bong Go outside the Comelec office in Intramuros Manila on Saturday. Go, who earlier filed his candidacy for vice president, decided to file as candidate for president in the 2022 national elections. (Courtesy of ABS-CBN News)

By Joseph B.A. Marzan

Substitutions for electoral candidates were originally meant to maximize political parties’ exercise in democratic politics, but the current moves for the 2022 national elections seems to be an exercise against the welfare of voters, according to a political analyst.

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte filed her candidacy to run for vice president under the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021, replacing the party’s placeholder candidate, Lyle Uy.

This despite her saying in the past months that she wanted to finish her third term as mayor instead of seeking a national position. Back then, she filed for reelection on Oct. 1 under her Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) regional party.

Hours after her filing for the vice presidency on Nov 13, presidential communications office chief Martin Andanar announced that her father, President Rodrigo Duterte, would also vie for vice president, although it wasn’t announced under which party.

The father was nominated by the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-LABAN) in September, but Senator Bong Go, who was nominated by the party as its presidential bet, filed for the position on Oct. 2.

But on Saturday, Go dropped his vice-presidential bid under PDP-LABAN, and lodged his presidential run but under its allied party Pederalismo ng Dugong Dakilang Samahan, replacing Grepor Belgica.

Filing for candidacies ended on Oct. 8, but the Dutertes and Go formalized their new political courses using the substitution rule under Section 77 of the Omnibus Election Code.

Under the said provision, a substitute can fill in until the mid-day of election day for three reasons: death, disqualification, or withdrawal.

The older Duterte used this provision in 2016 to replace PDP-LABAN’s then standard bearer, now-Interior Undersecretary Martin Diño.

For the current election cycle, Uy and Belgica withdrew in favor of Sara Duterte and Senator Go to fill in the respective candidacies under their parties.

Prior to the confirmation of the younger Duterte’s vice presidential bid, political analyst and Daily Guardian columnist Michael Henry Yusingco explained to Daily Guardian on Air last Friday that substitution was originally a tool for political parties to replace “unworthy” nominees.

He added that while the substitution mechanism was not exclusive to the Philippines, it was a tool used by “genuine democratic political parties”, unlike here where there are many parties and used only by politicians for their own advantage against the voters.

“Substitution is a legitimate mechanism for political parties to correct themselves. Its original premise are genuine democratic political parties. For example, if they made a mistake in nominating a candidate, political parties are given a chance to correct the candidate which may give them shame,” Yusingco explained.

“The substitution mechanism is also being applied in other jurisdictions, but the premise is there are genuine political parties. The problem here is that it has been used by our politicians as strategy to fool others. They use it against other candidates, so they don’t use it for the good of elections,” he added.

Yusingco shared his sentiments that the use of substitution simply for political gain would be “an insult to the voting public”.

“I was more affected here as a voter because it’s like they’re playing games with this election, confusing the minds of all voters. How can they be so cavalier and whimsical in talking about the most difficult job in the Philippines? We voters will be so pitiful if our candidates are going to be like that,” he said.

He suggested that the Omnibus Election Code should be reviewed so that the said mechanism should not be used “in a nefarious way”.

Yusingco hoped that while many voters are still tugged by these strategies, many of them, especially younger voters, would be more critical in choosing their leaders.

“There are voters who are still entertained by these gimmicks, with the drama and pretend-refusal, they are amused and engaged. But more of our voters, especially the newly voting youth, it doesn’t sell to them anymore. I hope our voters are much more critical now, and they would not accept these kinds of shenanigans when it comes to election strategies,” he stated.

The last day for withdrawals and substitutions of candidates for the 2022 national and local elections would be today, Nov 15, 2021.