Tightening rules on substitution | Inquirer Opinion

Tightening rules on substitution

/ 05:12 AM May 23, 2024

There will be stricter rules on the withdrawal and substitution of candidates in the 2025 midterm elections.

In a recent resolution, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) prohibited the substitution of candidates who withdraw their certificate of candidacy (COC) after the lapse of the deadline for its filing unless the candidate has died or is disqualified with finality.

In addition, the substitute candidate should have the same surname and is affiliated with the same political party of the deceased or disqualified candidate.

This means that between Oct. 1 and Oct. 8, 2024, or the period for filing of COCs, substitutions can be freely made, but after that any substitution has to meet the requirements earlier mentioned in order to be effective.



When Comelec chair George Erwin Garcia was asked about the rationale behind the resolution, he said: “This is so that the people will not be deceived. If you really want to render service to the public, isn’t it better if you’re really decided, for you to disclose it quickly [and] file your candidacy already.”

This “withdraw and substitute” scheme drew public attention in 2015 when Martin Diño filed his COC for president in the 2016 polls, then withdrew at the last minute and was substituted by then Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte who was eventually elected.

Diño later admitted that he filed his COC without any serious intentions of pursuing it and that he acted only as a placeholder for Duterte. That action earned him an appointment in the Duterte administration as undersecretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

The same act was replicated in 2021 when then Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte substituted Lyle Fernando Uy who earlier filed (then withdrew) his COC for vice president in the 2022 elections. She was later elected vice president.


At present, Uy is a director in the office of Tourism Secretary Ma. Esperanza Christina Garcia-Frasco.

Political maneuvers

The substitution process in candidacies for local and national elections was conceived to allow a political party to replace a party member-candidate who, for one reason or another, decides not to pursue his or her candidacy, dies, or is disqualified from running.


This way, the concerned political party can continue to participate in the elections through the substitute candidate. On the part of the voters, the substitution gives them a wider choice of candidates to vote for.

Sadly, that otherwise noble objective has, for years, been twisted by many politicians. What’s worse, past Comelec officials either turned a blind eye on it or considered it as par for the course in Philippine politics.

As a result, that process became part of the bag of political maneuvers or tricks of political parties in getting their candidates elected. Because the scheme was widely used by political parties and the voters couldn’t care less, no one questioned its merit.


For political dynasties, the “withdraw and substitute” system is the go-to solution in case family members or in-laws cannot agree on who to put up as a candidate or what position to run for within the period for the filing of COCs.

With a political ally acting as a placeholder in the position, the political dynasty has all the time (theoretically up to Election Day) to explore all means possible to prevent family members or in-laws from running against each other and, in the process, lose to the opposing candidates.

That system also becomes handy if, during the campaign period, a political party feels that the candidate it has fielded does not stand a good chance of winning.

To stave off the risk of losing, that candidate can be quickly replaced by somebody whom the party believes is capable of winning.

In effect, the process has evolved into a political football that can be kicked around by politicians depending on their whims and caprices.


Based on past experiences, it should not come as a surprise if some political parties try to game or look for loopholes in the interpretation or implementation of the Comelec resolution.

The requirements that the substitution shall be allowed only in case of death or disqualification and that the substituted candidate should have the same surname as the withdrawn candidate would be difficult to go around.

But the same cannot be said for the condition that the substituted candidate should belong to the same political party as the candidate who withdrew.

If the substitute candidate is not affiliated with that party, he or she can simply apply for and be granted membership to it. Problem solved.

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Thus, between now and Oct. 1, the Comelec should make sure that the implementing rules and regulations of its resolution can stand legal scrutiny and are capable of fending off any efforts to emasculate it.


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