#PHVote Guides: When can candidates be substituted?

In the Philippine electoral system, political aspirants have a certain week scheduled by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to file their certificates of candidacy (COC) for the next regular elections.

For the 2022 elections, the period for COC filing is October 1 to 8, 2021. What happens if aspirants miss the deadline? Can they still run?

Yes – as a substitute for someone else, and subject to certain conditions. Case in point: President Rodrigo Duterte.

Duterte, member of the PDP-Laban (Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan) party, was able to run for president even if we expressed his intent to do so past the COC filing deadline in 2015. He substituted for party mate Martin Diño, the one who originally filed his COC as the party's presidential nominee.

How does substitution work? Here’s what you need to know.

2 periods for substitution

Under Comelec rules, political parties and coalitions that field a candidate can choose to substitute that candidate if one of three things happen after COC filing: the candidate dies, withdraws, or is disqualified by the Comelec.

The schedule for the substitution period varies per election season.

For the 2022 elections, if an initial candidate withdraws, dies, or is disqualified by final judgment, a substitute candidate can file their COC by November 15, 2021. This COC will reflect the name of the substitute.

November 15 is also the last day for substituting of party-list nominees who withdraw.

If the original candidate dies or is disqualified, the substitute can file their COC from November 16, 2021, up to midday of May 9, 2022 (election day), provided the substitute and the original candidate have the same surname. Substitutes cannot run in case of withdrawals during this period.

Midday of election day is also the deadline for substituting party-list nominees by reason of death or incapacity.

In Diño’s case, he withdrew his presidential bid on October 29, 2015, after saying he felt insulted by the Comelec, who informed him they might declare him a nuisance candidate. The deadline for parties to substitute their candidate for that election season was December 10, 2015.

PDP-Laban then nominated Duterte to be the substitute standard-bearer. 

Issue in the 2019 midterm elections

In the 2019 midterm elections, Filipinos criticized the Comelec’s substitution rules.

Comelec Resolution 10420, promulgated in September 2018, allowed substitute candidates for those who withdrew, died, or were disqualified until midday of election day – provided the substitute shared the surname of the original candidate. It permitted substitution for withdrawals, and not only for those who died or were disqualified.

The substitute should also belong to, and be nominated by, the political party or coalition of the original candidate. 

This meant that, if a voter cast their vote in the early morning of election day, their chosen candidate could still substitute himself with his eligible spouse or child, for example. They just had to do it before noon.

After criticism, the Comelec amended its substitution rules, and shortened the deadline for substitution due to withdrawal only up to November 29, 2018, instead of midday of 2019 election day.

This amended rule is adopted again for the 2022 elections – unless the Comelec changes it.

Since a similar surname is not a requirement for substitute when a candidate withdraws by November 15, the real lineup of candidates won't be clear when the COC filing wraps up on October 8.

– Rappler.com

Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a researcher-writer at Rappler. Possessing the heart and soul of a feminist, she is working on specializing in women's issues in Newsbreak, Rappler's investigative arm.

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