THE COMMISSION on Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday expressed support to proposed measures seeking to modify rules on the substitution of candidates, which are currently vague, complicated or geared towards political dynasties. 

“The commission fully supports the passage of said bills. This will effectively improve our electoral system,” Comelec Law Department Head Albert Rodriguez said during a committee hearing on Senate Bill (SB) 2439 and SB 2461, which will amend the Omnibus Election Code.

Mr. Rodriguez, however, noted the need to clarify terminologies used under SB 2439 such as “incapacity” of a candidate.

Under the bill, grounds for substitution include death, incapacity, or disqualification of a candidate. Withdrawal of one’s certificate of candidacy will no longer be included.  

SB 2461, on the other hand, will require that the substitute candidate be a member of the same political party at the time of filing of the certificate of candidacy. Any misrepresentation as to party membership can be a ground for cancellation.

Mr. Rodriguez also noted a problem with a provision that states the substitute candidate’s position can be voided if the original candidate is declared as a nuisance candidate despite the withdrawal. This, he said, cannot be done as the latter is technically no longer a candidate. 

“Election law should not be this complicated so if we are going to amend Section C, we take into account even jurisprudence, and if we disagree with the ruling, we can also change it by clarifying provisions of law,” said Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III during the hearing.

He also argued against the provision that the substitute candidate must be of the same family name as the original candidate. 

“The supposed direction of our election rules and laws should be to strengthen political parties, not families,” Mr. Pimentel said.

“So what if the name of the candidate has been printed on the ballot… The right to substitute belongs not to the family, not to the candidate, but to the political party,” he added.

The responsibility of informing the public about the new candidate should be on the political party, he said.

“This really should be made simpler, because this issue of substitution has become very confusing. While on the other hand, we know that it’s been exploited and abused by too many of us politicians,” said Senator María Imelda “Imee” R. Marcos, chair of the Electoral Reforms and People’s Participation committee. 

During the same hearing, the committee also discussed SB 24 and House Bill 7407 on the participation of civil society organizations (CSOs) in the preparation and authorization process of the annual national budget. 

“The documents prepared by DBM (Department of Budget and Management)… are mountains upon mountains of paper, and the bill requires that documents prepared by the DBM for submission to Congress should also be provided to all these NGOs (non-government organizations),” said Ms. Marcos, calling the provisions “burdensome.” 

DBM Liaison Office Chief Budget and Management Specialist Mark James S. Evangelista said they also have reservations on the provision mandating all CSOs to send their reports to the DBM. 

Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon suggested that NGOs be accredited by topic or subject, and their participation be limited to their area of expertise. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan