MANILA - The PDP-Laban faction of Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi on Thursday rejected allegations that political parties, which would avail themselves of the period for substitution of their standard bearers in the 2022 national elections, are making a mockery of the electoral process.
"If the real intent of the Omnibus Election Code envisioned only those who will die along the way or be disqualified, then why didn’t the lawmakers just state so?" said Melvin Matibag, secretary general of the ruling party faction backed by President Rodrigo Duterte.
"It’s that simple. If the law is clear there should be no room for interpretation," he said.
Matibag was referring to Article IX, Section 77 of the Omnibus Election Code, which states that: "If after the last day for the filing of certificates of candidacy, an official candidate of a registered or accredited political party dies, withdraws or is disqualified for any cause, only a person belonging to, and certified by, the same political party may file a certificate of candidacy to replace the candidate who died, withdrew or was disqualified."
Under the Commission on Election’s calendar for the 2022 polls, substitution for a candidate in a national or local post is allowed from the end of the COC filing period until 15 November 2021.
"Any political party can opt to utilize the rule on substitution as it is allowed by law," he said.
"It is available to everyone without distinction. A mockery is when rules are not applied equally. And every party is entitled to employ its own political strategies," he said.
The ruling party earlier brushed aside speculation that their presidential candidate, Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa, is merely a “placeholder” for the president's Davao Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.
Matibag earlier stressed that Dela Rosa, who filed his certificate of candidacy on the last day, is not a “last-minute candidate” as he was on the shortlist of possible presidential candidates of the ruling party when it began the internal selection process.
Dela Rosa, meanwhile, said he was told of his selection as standard bearer just 2 hours before filing his COC. He is running in tandem with Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go who, like him, has been in the legislature since 2019 after a maiden electoral foray.
PDP-Laban is preparing to roll out its caravan to campaign for the tandem of Dela Rosa and Go, he said.
Matibag refused to comment on the admission of Lakas-CMD executive Prospero Pichay that they fielded "place-holder" candidates Anna Capella Velasco (President) and Lyle Fernando Uy (VP) due to the "fluidity" of the situation.
Pichay was quoted as saying that they are looking at the possibility of adopting either Mayor Sara Duterte or former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, namesake son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who is running for president.
"I cannot comment on the Lakas-CMD actions since this concerns a party decision which candidates to field, endorse or adopt. But of course, we are always open to alliances to help PDP-Laban candidates," Matibag said.
Meanwhile, Partido Reporma standard bearer Panfilo Lacson said their slate also has a "surprise" senatorial bet who is expected to join through substitution.
"May isa kaming (We have a) kandidato that is yet to be announced," he said in the online edition of "Pandesal Forum."
"Mafa-finalize after November 15 kapag lapat na 'yung ground, kitang-kita na," he said.
(We will finalize after November 15 when all candidates are bared.)
The controversy over the issue of substitution of candidates has prompted a lawmaker in the House of Representatives to say he would propose an amendment to the law that would impose a ban on substitution unless the candidate-nominee of a political party dies or is disqualified before election day.
— with a report from Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News