2022 Philippine Elections

Lacson leaves his party. What happens next? Comelec says not much.

Dwight de Leon
Lacson leaves his party. What happens next? Comelec says not much.

NEVER AGAIN. Presidential aspirant Senator Panfilo Lacson and his vice presidential running mate Senate President Vicente Sotto III stage a campaign sortie at the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

(1st UPDATE) One election lawyer believes this is a huge blow to Lacson's candidacy, as people may see him as a 'sinking boat'

MANILA, Philippines – Presidential aspirant and incumbent senator Panfilo Lacson, who filed his candidacy papers under the banner of Partido Reporma back in October 2021, has left his party. He will, however, continue his campaign as an independent candidate.

But will Lacson’s decision to abandon Partido Reporma have any effect on his candidacy? As per the Commission on Elections (Comelec), not much.

“Your certificate of nomination and acceptance (CONA) stays. Whatever change in your affiliation after the filing of candidacy period doesn’t matter,” Comelec Commissioner George Garcia told reporters on Thursday, March 24. A CONA is among the papers submitted during the period of filing of certificates of candidacy last year.

“As far as the Comelec is concerned, he is not an independent candidate,” Garcia added.

Lacson leaves his party. What happens next? Comelec says not much.

This means that Lacson’s name will still be listed as a candidate of Partido Reporma on the official ballots, which the Comelec has been printing since January.

But what about his election returns?

“As to how he will get election returns and such other privileges by law and the Commission, that is an internal matter on the part of the party,” Garcia explained.

Lacson leaves his party. What happens next? Comelec says not much.

Seasoned lawyer Emil Marañon echoed Garcia, citing Comelec Resolution No. 10717, which said that someone is an independent candidate if his CONA is “canceled, withdrawn or substituted by the nominating party within the period for filing of COC.”

“The whole process [on Lacson and Partido Reporma] happened after the filing of COC so technically, he can’t be an independent candidate in the eyes of the law,” he said. Marañon added that Lacson cannot just take advantage of the higher expense cap for independent candidates at P5 for every voter, compared to candidates with political party at P3, under the Fair Election Act.

“If I exceed my campaign cap limit, does that mean I can abrogate my nomination anytime or I can tell my party to take back my nomination anytime so I can have my campaign cap limit raised? It doesn’t work that way,” he explained.

When Lacson announced his decision to leave the party, he said Partido Reporma is set to endorse another presidential candidate in the May 9 elections.

Marañon III said Thursday’s developments are a huge blow to Lacson’s presidential bid.

“Optics-wise, people may perceive him as a sinking boat, with everyone trying to jump ship to another winnable candidate. In terms of practical support, losing political allies translates to losing votes as well. So this is bad at this stage of the campaign,” Marañon told Rappler.

Lacson has been polling at single-digit percentage points since he filed his candidacy.

Even the Nationalist People’s Coalition, the party of his running-mate Senate President Vicente Sotto III, has not endorsed Lacson for the presidency. – Rappler.com

Dwight de Leon

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