'Senate may take up amendment of law to address substitution after 2022 budget is passed'

Zandro Ochona, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 16 2021 05:58 PM

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MANILA - The Senate may tackle measures amending the law allowing substitution of candidates during elections once it completes the deliberation for the country's 2022 P5-trillion spending plan, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Tuesday.

Commission on Elections spokesperson James Jimenez earlier in the day said the substitution option for political aspirants is "ripe for regulation" amid several substitutions among next year's candidates. 

"We might be able to do that after we tackle the budget. There are 2 or 3 bills filed. Baka sakali (maybe). They’re in the back burner right now because of the budget. But we might be able to take that up and remove that option,” Sotto, a vice presidential aspirant in next year's elections, told ANC’s Headstart.

”Nilagyan kasi ng extension eh. Dapat 'yan, wala na yung extension. Dapat 'yan, you’re prepared, you’re ready to run for any particular position. Mag-file ka. Pagka nag-dilly-dally ka, nagkatagal-tagal ka, aba, eh hindi ka sigurado... I don’t think the people would like leaders who are undecided,” he added.

(It grants extension, when it shouldn't be the case. Candidates should be prepared to run for any particular position, that's why they file. Once you dilly-dally, or you file past the filing period, then it shows you're not sure about your candidacy.)

Sotto also said a “lapse” in the Constitution could also be the reason why it is difficult for political parties to come up with a 12-member senatorial line-up.

“The multi-party system in the Constitution should have been a two-party system because they voted for a presidential when they were voting for a unicameral, parliamentary form, and a presidential form when they voted I think with just one vote lang," he said.

“Ito ang nangyayari sa atin ngayon - may multi-party system tayo ngayon. So, marami-raming partido. Hindi tayo makabuo nung isang doseng slate na puro NPC lang. Unlike what happened in 1992 kasi hindi pa gaanong ramdam ang multi-party system,” he added.

(This is what's happening to us right now. We have a multi-party system. We have quite a number of parties. So, we can't come up with a 12-member Senate slate that is purely NPC. Unlike what happened in 1992 when the multi-party system was not felt yet.)

Sotto's presidential running mate, Sen. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson, had also agreed with suggestions for the Philippines' election code to be amended to disallow voluntary substitution of candidates.

On Monday, the last day for political parties to substitute their candidates for the May 9, 2022 elections, President Rodrigo Duterte filed his candidacy for senator via substitution, despite previously declaring he would retire from politics after his term ends in June 2022. He used the mechanism when he ran for the country's top post in 2016.

His daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, also joined the vice presidential race as a substitute candidate, backing out from her reelection bid.

Duterte's longtime aide, Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go, availed of the substitution scheme as well as he changed his 2022 plans from being a vice presidential bet to presidential.

Among other aspirants who took the substitution route are Harry Roque, Duterte's spokesman, who is joining the senatorial race; retired Army general Antonio Parlade, Jr., who is seeking the presidency; and newly retired police chief Guillermo Eleazar, who is vying for senator.

Romulo Macalintal, an election lawyer, believed the substitution option for candidates was being exploited.

Substitution of political aspirants was allowed originally to balance the need to protect a person's right to run and not run for public office, and the need to protect a political party from a "whimsical withdrawal," Jimenez previously said. 

The official filing of certificate of candidacy for next year's elections was last Oct. 1-8.