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Abuse claims on substitution rule 'premature,' says Palace

Malacañang on Thursday described as "premature" claims that the provision on substitution in the Omnibus Election Code is being abused.

Interviewed on Unang Balita, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque noted that none among those who filed their certificates of candidacy (COC) for the 2022 elections has been substituted so far.

"Hindi ko alam kung saan ang pang-aabuso kasi wala pa namang nagsa-substitute, so siguro po magkakaroon tayo ng conclusion kung meron ngang nag-substitute," Roque said.

(I don't know where the abuse is since no substitution has taken place so far. I think we can have a conclusion once there is substitution.)

"So sa ngayon po wala pa namang kahit sinong nagsa-substitute, premature po para sabihing inaabuso," he added.

(For now since there has yet to be a substitution, it's premature to say that there's been an abuse.)

Article IX, Section 77 of  Omnibus Election Code provides 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.”

Senate President Vicente Sotto III, who is running for vice president in 2022, on Tuesday said the provision must be reviewed as it has been “abused.”

Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III agreed with Sotto, saying abuse happens when political parties intentionally field "fake candidates" who will be replaced later on.

Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez, for his part, has said that an almost absolute ban on the substitution of candidates by political parties must be imposed so as not to make a "mockery" of the elections.

Under the Comelec’s calendar for 2022 polls, substitution for a candidate in a national or local post can be filed from the end of the COC filing period until November 15, 2021.

On Wednesday, Rodriguez filed House Bill 10380 proposing that a political party should be banned from substituting any candidate unless the latter dies or is disqualified.

"While there is nothing wrong with substitution in case of death or disqualification, which is justifiable, substitution because of withdrawal, or what others call voluntary substitution, may pose serious questions and may lead to the manipulation and mockery of the election process,” Rodriguez said.

“Withdrawals could lead the voting public to believe that the candidate who withdrew, or even the political party or substituting candidate, is not really serious,” he added. —KBK, GMA News