MANILA, Philippines – Congress should amend the law governing the substitution of candidates in Philippine elections, an election lawyer said, as the Philippines’ poll body relaxed the rules on this process.
“Since that is the law, then the Comelec cannot do anything but include that in its rules and regulations,” said election lawyer Romulo Macalintal on Tuesday, September 11, in a phone interview with Rappler.
“But for us, the law on that should be amended because it could cause a lot of confusion, and some people might take advantage of it. It’s very, very easy to take advantage of that,” said Macalintal.
The Comelec on Friday, September 7, promulgated a resolution that relaxed the rules on substituting for candidates in the 2019 elections.
In the 2019 rules, a candidate who withdraws his or her candidacy before midday of election day can still have a substitute candidate.
In 2016, a candidate who withdrew only had until December 10, 2015, or months before the May elections, to have a substitute. Back then, substitution close to midday of election day was only allowed for candidates who died or got disqualified.
The Omnibus Election Code itself allows the withdrawal until midday of election day, but the Comelec, in the previous automated polls, gave a deadline for substitution due to withdrawal. The practical reason was to finalize the list of names for the ballot printing, but it also stopped candidates from exploiting substitution close to D-Day.
Former Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes Jr, also a veteran election lawyer, criticized the Comelec’s new rule on substitution.
Brillantes explained one of the dirty tricks that can be employed using this substitution rule.
Citing a hypothetical situation, Brillantes said, “Hahanap ako ng artistang kapareho ng family name ko, tapos kunyari ‘yun ang ilalagay kong kandidato. Tapos ‘pag malapit na ang eleksyon, let’s say two days before or one day before the elections, sa-substitute ako. O di ‘pag binoto ‘yan ng tao, akala nila ‘yun ang binoboto nila, ‘yun pala iba na.”
(I will look for a celebrity that shares my family name, then I will field him first as candidate. Then when the election is near, let’s say two days before or one day before the elections, I will substitute for him. People will then think they’re voting for the celebrity, only to realize later on that he has been substituted for.)
Brillantes said he would advise the Comelec to amend this new rule. – Rappler.com