This website requires JavaScript.

Comelec: Placeholders Not Always Nuisance Bets

Comelec: Placeholders Not Always Nuisance Bets
Sen. Ronald dela Rosa files his certificate of candidacy for president in the 2022 polls at the Commission on Elections’ set up at the Harbor Garden Tent of Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila on Oct. 8, 2021. Photo by Jesse Bustos, The Philippine STAR

A candidate cannot be declared a “nuisance” simply because he or his party admits publicly that he is just substituting or is willing to substitute for another candidate, according to a poll official.

James Jimenez, spokesman for the Commission on Elections (Comelec), told reporters in a Viber message on Wednesday, Oct. 13, that the lack of a bona fide intention to run for an elective post needs to be proven before a filer of certificate of candidacy (COC) is declared a nuisance.

“A mere declaration to the contrary wouldn’t, in my opinion, be sufficient to overcome the intention to run which is manifested in the verified COC. The lack of a bona fide intention to run needs to be proven,” Jimenez said.

The issue on placeholder candidates drew renewed attention after Sen. Ronald dela Rosa filed his COC for president under PDP-Laban at the last minute on Oct. 8 only to declare that he is willing to have Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio take his place eventually on or before the Nov.15 deadline for substitution.

Earlier,  Jimenez called Dela Rosa’s case as “outlier” and questioned his “bona fide intention to run” for president since he admitted he is willing to be replaced by Duterte-Carpio as PDP-Laban’s presidential bet.

Jimenez said the Comelec will have hearings once Dela Rosa’s candidacy is formally questioned before the poll body.

Read more: Comelec Questions Bato Dela Rosa’s Intention To Run As He Declares Readiness To Give Way If Sara Seeks Presidency

Aside from Dela Rosa, Deputy Speaker and Lakas-CMD secretary general Prospero Pichay Jr. also admitted in an interview on Monday, Oct. 11, that they let the party’s executive director Anna Capella Velasco file her COC for president, a position intended for Duterte-Carpio should she change her mind.

Velasco filed her COC on Oct. 8 with one Lyle Fernando Uy – a member of Lakas-CMD – as her running mate. Lakas is the party of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Pichay was first quoted as saying that Velasco and Uy were placeholders, but he later denied this saying he did not even know what placeholders meant. He said he only was asked if they were willing to adopt Duterte-Carpio as standard-bearer since they do not have one.

As member of Lakas-CMD, Duterte-Carpio is qualified for the substitution option of the Comelec.

Under the substitution rule, a COC filer who wishes to withdraw candidacy can be substituted by anybody in the same political party. Independent candidates are not qualified for substitution.

The public admission of Dela Rosa and Pichay prompted Deputy Speaker and Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez to propose an “absolute ban” on the substitution of candidates to put an end to what he called apparent mockery of the country’s election process.

“There was a time when these negotiations happened behind closed doors, before the deadline for filing of COCs passed. Now, it’s all being played out in the open and it makes the public uncomfortable seeing what used to be hidden from them,” Jimenez said.

He also announced the poll body’s law department has cancelled the COCs of a certain Arlene Josephine Butay, as independent candidate for vice president and senator.

Militant congressmen said placeholder candidates should be disqualified. “We are challenging the Comelec to immediately declare these placeholder candidates as nuisance for making a mockery of the election process and insulting the intelligence of voters. These candidates should even be punished for this election atrocity,” Bayan Munaparty-list Rep. Carlos Zarate said.

“If you will join an election it should be well-thought of and well-planned, and not like you’re just brought there for somebody to replace you. This is an insult to our electorate,” Zarate pointed out.

Zarate did not name the placeholders they wanted disqualified. But the statement came after officials of both PDP-Laban and Lakas-CMD admitted that they are open to replacing their official presidential candidates with Duterte-Carpio should she change her mind and decide to run for president. – With Edu Punay