2022 PH presidential race

Robredo rejects substitution practice: ‘A mockery of our election laws’

Mara Cepeda
Robredo rejects substitution practice: ‘A mockery of our election laws’

VP Leni Robredo leads OVP budget presentation before Senate panel; senators express support for higher funding.

Photo by Charlie Villegas/OVP

Vice President Leni Robredo says the Commission on Elections' rules allowing substitutions should be 'revisited,' further limiting its allowances to prevent abuse

Presidential aspirant and Vice President Leni Robredo thumbed down the practice of substituting candidates during the elections, saying the policy has been abused and has turned into a “mockery of our election laws.”

Though she did not mention any names, the Philippine opposition leader took an apparent swipe against President Rodrigo Duterte and administration-allied presidential bet Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa when asked by reporters in Naga City, Camarines Sur to comment on substitutions during the elections. 

“‘Yung intent ng batas, siguraduhin lang na kapag mayroong nangyaring ‘di inaasahan, mayroong remedy. Pero ngayon, ‘yun nga eh, kahit hindi naman desididong kandidato, may hinihintay lang na ibang mag-desisyon, maglalagay ng placeholder. And ang pakiramdam ko, ina-ano ‘nya, parang mockery siya ng election laws natin,” Robredo said on Wednesday, October 27. 

(The intent of the law is to ensure that when something unexpected happens, we would have a remedy. But now, what happens is that even a candidate unsure of running is being fielded as a placeholder while waiting for someone else to make a decision. And I feel that is like a mockery of our election laws.)

Robredo rejects substitution practice: ‘A mockery of our election laws’

The Vice President said the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) rules allowing substitutions should be “revisited,” with the poll body further limiting the instances when the practice should be allowed to prevent abuse. 

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

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

The use of substitution became a prominent strategy in 2016 when Duterte, who failed to file a candidacy for president during the appointed week, eventually substituted a member of the now-ruling PDP-Laban party who had filed precisely to give him the chance to gun for the highest position in the land. 

Fast forward five years later, one faction of the fractured PDP-Laban led by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi is employing the same strategy by naming Dela Rosa as its last-minute standard-bearer for the 2022 presidential race.

Dela Rosa later admitted that he learned from Cusi that he would be their presidential candidate a mere two hours before the deadline to file last October 8.

The ruling party had long been considering Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte – the President’s daughter who is still topping the latest pre-election surveys – to be its standard-bearer even if she insisted repeatedly that she would be gunning for her third term as Davao City mayor in 2022

Critics have since slammed Dela Rosa for being a mere placeholder for Sara Duterte and have accused him of making a mockery of the elections. The former top cop-turned-senator, however, defended himself by saying his intention should not be “judged.” 

Dela Rosa told Rappler on Wednesday he does not mind the policy on substitutions to be amended, but insists he is not abusing the rule. 

“Wala along problema dyan. Okay sa akin i-amend ang batas na ‘yan. Hindi po kami abusado kasi legal po ang aming ginagawa. Wala po kaming na-violate na batas,” said Dela Rosa. 

(I have no problem with that. It’s okay with me if that law is amended. We are not abusive here because what we did was legal. We did not violate any laws.) – with reports from Bea Cupin/Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.