Deputy Speaker and Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez has filed two bills banning candidate substitution and declaring an incumbent elective official as automatically resigned upon the filing of his certificate of candidacy for another position. “These twin measures aim to put an end to practices by politicians and political parties that tend to put in doubt the integrity of our elections,” said the Mindanao lawmaker who filed the two bills on Wednesday. Under House Bill 10380, a political party would be prohibited from substituting any candidate unless the latter dies or is disqualified. Rodriguez said the Omnibus Election Code allows the substitution of a candidate in case of death, disqualification or withdrawal of another aspirant. “While there is nothing wrong with substitution in case of death or disqualification which is justifiable, substitution because of withdrawal, or what others call voluntary substitution, may pose serious questions and may lead to the manipulation and mockery of the election process,” he said. “Withdrawals could lead the voting public to believe that the candidate who withdrew, or even the political party or substituting candidate, is not really serious,” he added. He said the election law empowered the Commission on Elections or Comelec to disqualify an aspirant who filed his COC to put the election process in mockery or disrepute. “As such, any person who has no real intention to run and only filed for candidacy as a placeholder (for another aspirant) should be declared as a nuisance candidate,” Rodriguez stressed. But the Comelec appeared firm that the voluntary substitution option for political aspirants should not be removed, despite growing calls from several members of Congress, suggesting lawmakers should instead consider coming up with specific limitations. “What needs to happen is that Congress should introduce restrictions of some sort on the exercise of the statutory privilege of substitution,” Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said. Jimenez said he has “seen the intrinsic worth of the system of substitution.” Meanwhile, PDP-Laban Secretary General Melvin Matibag rejected allegations that political parties which would avail themselves of the period for substitution of their standard bearers in the 2022 national elections were making a mockery of the electoral process. The ruling party earlier brushed aside speculations that its presidential candidate, Senator Ronald Dela Rosa, was merely a “placeholder” for Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, who has consistently rejected the possibility of joining PDP-Laban. “If the real intent of the Omnibus Election Code envisioned only those who will die along the way or be disqualified, then why didn’t the lawmakers just state so? It’s that simple. If the law is clear there should be no room for interpretation,” Matibag said. “It’s not a mockery of the elections law if the political parties use every available legal option, or time, for them to finally decide the candidates to field,” Matibag added.
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