My column last Sunday titled “Party substitution extends Oct. 8 deadline” drew a lot of questions which I will now answer.
Q1. Substitution tends to cause uncertainty and manipulation of the electoral process. How can we avoid or minimize these evils?
A. Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal proposed 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, and the COC denied due course. Since the COC is null and void, the candidate cannot be substituted.
Macalintal’s stance is sensible, even patriotic. However, the process for ousting nuisance candidates takes time and will, during the ouster proceedings (and possible appeals), still cause uncertainty. I think the better solution is to abolish substitution for any reason except the death of the candidate.
Q2. Several men unexpectedly filed COCs for the vice presidential race. If any of them withdraws on or before Nov. 15, how can he be substituted?
A. Section 77 of the Omnibus Election Code (echoed 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. Moreover, “the name of the substitute will be reflected in the official ballots.” If withdrawal is made after Nov. 15, no substitution is allowed.
Q3. May a candidate for president (like Manny Pacquiao) or for vice president (like Willie Ong) who withdraws on or before Nov. 15 substitute for a senatorial candidate who also withdraws on or before Nov. 15?
A. Yes, provided the presidential or vice presidential candidate is nominated by a PP or coalition to the slot vacated by the withdrawal of the senatorial candidate of the said PP or coalition. For example, if Promdi Party’s presidential nominee Manny Pacquiao withdraws his COC, he can be nominated by Promdi to a senatorial slot vacated by a withdrawal, or even by another PP—like the Liberal Party (LP)—to replace a withdrawn LP senatorial candidate, provided Manny is first sworn in as an LP member. In this example, substitution can result in a realignment of political forces.
Q4. If a candidate dies or is disqualified by a final judgment after Nov. 15, can he/she still be substituted?
A. Yes, provided the substitute has the same surname and belongs to the same PP or coalition as the person to be substituted. In this way, the votes for the deceased or the disqualified would be credited to the substitute.
Q5. If a registered PP or coalition fails or neglects to nominate a presidential bet on or before Oct. 8, can the vacant slot be filled up by a nominee of the said PP or coalition on or before Nov. 15?
A. No more. Substitution until Nov. 15 is possible only if a validly nominated candidate or aspirant withdraws before Nov. 15. Here, the vacant slot may be filled by the registered PP or coalition that nominated him/her. Slots left vacant after Oct. 8 cannot be filled up by substitution.
Q6. Is it not grossly unfair and a violation of the equal protection clause to allow elected officials like senators and mayors to stay in, and continue exercising the powers and functions of, their offices after filing their COCs; and yet, appointive officials like Cabinet members, military officers, and officials of government-owned or -controlled corporations are automatically “deemed resigned”?
A. Quinto v. Comelec (Feb. 22, 2010), cited in my column last Sunday, answered “No.” It explained that the equal protection clause of the Constitution “does not demand absolute equality…; it merely requires that all persons shall be treated alike, under like circumstances and conditions both as to privileges conferred and liabilities enforced… Substantial distinctions clearly exist between elective officials and appointive officials. The former occupy their office by virtue of the mandate of the electorate…” With due respect, I believe all candidates should be treated equally without discrimination and without giving undue advantage to any one or to any group. All public officials, whether elective or appointive, should be deemed resigned upon filing their COCs to prevent them from using their offices to promote their electoral campaigns.
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