After criticism, Comelec amends rule on substitution of bets

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) amended its rule on the substitution of candidates until midday of election day, which former Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes Jr had warned will create confusion in the 2019 polls.

Sought for confirmation by Rappler, Comelec Commissioner Luie Guia said the poll body decided to amend its rule on substitution due to withdrawal. The Comelec will allow substitution due to withdrawal only up to November 29 this year, unlike the original rule that allowed this until midday of election day. 

Guia said on Thursday, September 20, that the Comelec is set to promulgate a resolution on this.

Substitution due to withdrawal means substituting for candidates who withdrew their candidacies. This was what happened in the case of former PDP-Laban presidential candidate Martin Diño, who withdrew his candidacy to make way for his substitute, now-President Rodrigo Duterte. 

Comelec Resolution 10420, issued on September 7, allowed substitution due to withdrawal until midday of election day. This was not the case in the previous elections. For the 2016 polls, as in the case of Diño and Duterte, substitution due to withdrawal was allowed only until December 10, 2015, or 5 months before elections. 

Brillantes on Thursday hailed this amendment to the rules. Otherwise, he said of the Comelec, "Guguluhin 'nyo lang ang sarili 'nyo (You will just confuse yourselves)." 

Earlier, Brillantes explained one of the dirty tricks candidates could employ using the Comelec's original rule: "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.)

Veteran election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, also one of the opposition's possible candidates in the senatorial race, earlier said Congress should amend the law involving the substitution of candidates.

The Omnibus Election Code allows substitution in case of death, disqualification, or withdrawal until midday of election day. But the Omnibus Election Code was approved in 1985, when the Philippines still held manual elections, when ballots only had blanks and voters had to write the names of their candidates of choice.

Under the automated system, the Comelec needs to print out ballots with the names of candidates months before elections. The Comelec then, in previous automated elections, found the need to set a deadline for substitution due to withdrawal.

In the case of Federico vs Comelec in January 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that the Comelec "has been empowered to set the dates for certain pre-election proceedings." These proceedings include setting a deadline for substitution due to withdrawal. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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