MANILA -- There are now at least two bills filed at the House of Representatives that seek a ban on candidate substitution in future elections.
In a press statement, the Makabayan bloc said it filed House Bill 10387 to prohibit the substitution of candidates by reason of withdrawal.
Under the bill, "any candidate who has, in any way shown or expressed directly or indirectly, that he or she is only a pseudo-candidate or a placeholder for another candidate is prima facie evidence that said candidate has no bona fide intention to run for the office for which the (certificate of candidacy) has been filed."
House Deputy Minority leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said that the belated substitution of a candidate is a "mockery of the electoral process and is a way of fooling the electorate."
"Sa paraang ito ay mapipigilan natin ang katulad na ginagawa ngayon na parang niloloko ang mga tao at pinaglalaruan lang ang eleksyon," he said.
In the bill's explanatory note, the Makabayan bloc said that "what used to be a remedy has become a strategy for scheming politicians and political parties."
Lawmakers recalled that in the 2016 national elections, Martin Diño filed his certificate of candidacy, only to be replaced later on by eventual winner President Rodrigo Duterte.
The bloc recalled that in the previous national elections, “the nation was stunned by the strategy of a city mayor who substituted a presidential candidate at the last minute and was able to win the race leaving far behind his fellow presidential candidates.”
“Diño was widely known to have been a placeholder for then Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. He was heard in several of his media interviews that he filed his Certificate of Candidacy for presidency when the then Mayor Duterte failed to file his COC," the bill said.
"Yet, even prior to the 2016 national elections, that playbook of a last minute candidate substitution has already been used and, in many instances, exploited and taken advantage of by many parties to confuse the people, even to put in mockery the election processes."
The Makabayan bloc's bill only allows substitution for original candidates who died, were disqualified or permanently incapacitated.
Meanwhile, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez is proposing an absolute ban on substitution to "put an end to the manipulation and mockery of the election process."
"One reform I am proposing is an almost absolute ban on substitution of candidates by political parties. Another is the restoration of the old rule requiring incumbent officials to resign or to be deemed automatically resigned upon the filing of their certificates of candidacy for other positions," he said.
“It is lamentable that for the May 2022 elections, certain candidates for the presidency are perceived to be proxies for some personalities, even if they can be considered as serious aspirants,” he added.
The deputy speaker's proposal states that substitution should be prohibited unless the candidate-nominee of a political party dies or is disqualified before election day, to give the Commission on Elections (Comelec) more time to screen COC filers, prepare the finalist list of candidates and print the official ballots.
Rodriguez noted that under the present election law, the Comelec has to wait until the November 15 substitution deadline before finalizing the list of candidates, even if the COC filing period has ended on October 8.
“If we maintain the present Oct. 8 COC filing deadline, the commission will have an additional time of more than one month to prepare for the elections."
"Alternatively, we can move the timelines closer to election day like setting Nov. 15 as the close of the COC filing period," he said.
“A candidate would not agree to be a proxy for a dawdling, wavering or indecisive aspirant if he would have to give up his office. The resignation requirement would apply to all levels, national or local, whether aiming for higher or lower positions,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez also noted that the resignation requirement would level the playing field among elective and appointive officials.
“It would prevent them from using their offices, public funds and their influence to promote their candidacies,” he said.
An election lawyer has said that an aspirant admitting he was merely a "placeholder" can be a ground for him to be considered as "nuisance."
"If you admit publicly that you are just a placeholder in that you yourself has no intention to run then actually puwede ka pumasok doon sa definition ng nuisance candidate," said Atty. Emil Marañon, who previously worked as chief of staff of the late Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes.
"Nuisance candidate under the law ibig sabihin po noon wala kang intensyon na sumali sa election but you're doing that for purposes such as making mockery out of the election system. Puwede ka filean ng petition to declare as a nuisance candidate," he said.
But Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez has said that mere pronouncement of being a "placeholder" candidate "wouldn't be sufficient" as a ground to declare the bet a "nuisance."
On Monday, Lakas-CMD secretary general and Deputy Speaker Prospero Pichay told ABS-CBN News that the party's presidential and vice presidential bets are placeholders.
Pichay later denied the admission, but still said the party would welcome Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio as standard bearer in case she changes her mind about running.
PDP-Laban Cusi wing standard bearer Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa likewise said he would "by all means" withdraw in the event that Duterte-Carpio, the survey frontrunner, does a U-turn.
Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, a vice presidential aspirant, also said he is "open" to be replaced as Leni Robredo's running mate.