The PDP-Laban faction backed by President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday said that availing the period of substitution for elective positions is not a mockery of the election process, calling it a "legal" option that allows parties to decide on their final candidates.
“It’s not a mockery of the elections law if the political parties use every available legal option, or time, for them to finally decide the candidates to field,” said PDP-Laban secretary general Melvin Matibag.
“If the real intent of the Omnibus Election Code envisioned only those who will die along the way or be disqualified, then why didn’t the lawmakers just state so? It’s that simple. If the law is clear there should be no room for interpretation,” he added.
Article IX, Sec. 77 of the Omnibus Election Code allows for the substitution of a candidate if after the last day of the candidacy filing, the official candidate of a political party dies, withdraws, or is disqualified, provided that the substitute candidate comes from the same party.
Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez lamented that some presidential candidates are perceived to be proxies for some personalities, even if they can be considered as serious aspirants.
This prompted him to file a measure seeking a ban on candidate substitution, unless the original bet dies or gets disqualified.
While Matibag said PDP-Laban's presidential candidate Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa is not a "placeholder," there is still nothing wrong if the party decides to have him substituted on or before Nov. 15 deadline.
Dela Rosa himself is open to be replaced by Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio if the party decides so.
“The Comelec resolution allows for substitution up to Nov. 15. That is a process that we have to respect and recognize,” Matibag said.
The issue on the substitution of candidates would not have even mattered had President Rodrigo Duterte not won in 2016 as a substitute bet for PDP-Laban, according to Matibag.
“Any political party can opt to utilize the rule on substitution as it is allowed by law. It is available to everyone without distinction. A mockery is when rules are not applied equally. And every party is entitled to employ its own political strategies,” he said.
He likened this to Vice President Leni Robredo's decision to run as an independent candidate and change her branding to pink from yellow, the traditional color of Liberal Party where she serves as chairperson.
"In short, anyone in the political game may employ a strategy as long as it is within the bounds of the rules," he added.
While Comelec has yet to issue its official statement on the proposal to prohibit candidate substitution, its spokesperson James Jimenez said it might be better for Congress to introduce restrictions instead of banning it outright.
"I deplore the thinking that results in this 'strategy,' but I've also seen the intrinsic worth of the system of substitution," he said in a tweet on Wednesday.
"What needs to happen is that Congress should introduce restrictions of some sort, on the exercise of the statutory privilege of substitution," he added.