2022 Philippine Elections

Comelec OKs Rowena Guanzon’s party-list substitution bid

Dwight de Leon
Comelec OKs Rowena Guanzon’s party-list substitution bid

Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon on Rappler Talk, August 23, 2019.

LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

Acting Comelec spokesman Rex Laudiangco disagrees with observations that the en banc decision will make the party-list system further vulnerable to abuse

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections has approved the bid of former Comelec commissioner Rowena Guanzon to sit as the new first nominee of winning party-list group P3PWD.

In a statement on Wednesday, June 15, acting Comelec spokesman Rex Laudiangco said the four-member Comelec en banc, in a majority vote, granted the request of P3PWD’s five original nominees to withdraw their certificates of nomination, and gave due course to a new list of nominees led by Guanzon.

The substitution deadline for party-list nominees who withdrew from the race is on November 15, 2021, according to Comelec Resolution No. 10717, which Guanzon herself signed when she was still with the poll body in August 2021.

“No substitution shall be valid if filed beyond November 15, 2021, unless the list of nominees originally submitted has been exhausted due to death and/or incapacity of the nominees,” the resolution read.

Resignation letters of three of the five original nominees indicated personal reasons for withdrawing their nomination documents.

Comelec OKs Rowena Guanzon’s party-list substitution bid
Why is this move controversial?

Something similar happened in 2019, when National Youth Commission chief Ronald Cardema attempted to substitute for wife Ducielle, the original first nominee of Duterte Youth.

The Comelec en banc, in June 2019, granted due course to the withdrawal of nominations and the submission of a new list of nominees which included Cardema, but Guanzon vehemently opposed that, saying it was an “unabashed mockery and assault to democratic processes.”

When the Comelec division, which Guanzon was part of, eventually junked Cardema’s substitution papers in August 2019, Guanzon argued that the substitution of five nominees on the eve of the polls had the “clear intent of depriving the electorate the opportunity to be informed and to examine the qualifications and credentials of the nominees.”

The Comelec eventually approved Duterte Youth’s second withdrawal and substitution of nominees, allowing Ducielle to be proclaimed as congresswoman of the 18th Congress.

The Comelec’s decision this time is yet again controversial because it raises the prospect of politicians entering Congress and becoming lawmakers even after the May 9 polls are over – even if they are not the original nominees, as long as they have the consent and backing of the winning party-list group.

Comelec ‘consistent’

But Comelec’s Laudiangco disagreed that the en banc decision will make the party-list system further vulnerable to abuse.

“The candidate in the party-list system of representation [in the] elections is the party-list group,” he said. “Unless there is a clarificatory amendment to Republic Act 7941, particularly on Sections 8 and 16, this would be the rule to be followed by the Commission in similar cases.

Section 8 of that law states that a party-list group shall submit its list of nominees “not later than 45 days before the election,” but adds that a change of names is allowed in cases where the nominee withdraws in writing.

Section 16, meanwhile, allows groups to “submit additional nominees” if the original list is exhausted.

“This is not the first time that this issue happened, with ‘all’ nominees withdrawing the acceptance of their nominations after the close of polls. In all instances, the ruling of the Commission had been consistent,” Laudiangco said.

P3PWD secured a seat in the 19th Congress after placing 24th in the party-list race with 384,060 votes.

Rappler has reached out to Guanzon for her comment, and this article will be updated once she replies.

in her press conference on June 3, she spoke in favor of substitution bids in the party-list system after the elections.

“November 15 is the deadline for party-list substitution before the elections. Once a certificate of proclamation is issued by the Comelec in favor of the party-list, nobody has a vested right except for the party-list. Therefore, if a certificate of proclamation is submitted to the House, there is now a seat for that winning party-list which is vacant,” she had said. “It is the business of the party-list to decide who their representative should be.” 

The feisty, Guanzon, who has amassed a significant social media following through the years, has been a vocal critic of president-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr., and once voted to disqualify him from the presidential race due to the consequence of his tax conviction, although her vote did not count. – Rappler.com

Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers local government units and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.