Pass the message: End the political relay
The election is called a “race” for a reason, but it is not, in any way or form, a matter of relay games.
As the substitution period for the 2022 election comes to a close, our country is only met with more ridiculous political tricks and twists that unfortunately, does not appear to be surprising anymore. From shifting of political parties to withdrawing their certificate of candidacies (COCs), the substitution is marred with politically-motivated moves on what appears to be a ‘last-minute’ decision but a strategically-designed trick in reality. Almost every election, many politicians would file their COCs on the designated week of filing – spewing true-to-be good promises, vowing to bring better governance, and swearing anything that feeds the interest of ordinary voters. But here comes the substitution period where decisions of politicians change on a whim, and narratives are twisted quickly under the disguise of a supposed public clamor. And true enough, these strategically-shaped dramas appeal differently to the hearts of many, and even elected a sitting President who, for all we know, enables and exacerbates atrocities in an already unjust society.
Legality-wise, the substitution process does not violate any constitutional procedures as the law grants candidates from withdrawing their candidacies as long as it reaches the set deadline. According to the Article IX Section 77 of the Omnibus Election Code, political parties and coalitions may substitute their original bets under the conditions and cases of death, disqualification, and withdrawal. This therefore allows politicians like President Rodrigo Duterte to run for a position he did not originally gun for, who replaced then Partido Demokratiko-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP) Laban presidential nominee Martin Dino in 2015. Six years later, Duterte’s daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte pulled off a similar move, as she withdrew her mayoral bid and filed her candidacy for the vice-presidential race, resigned from her regional political party, joined a new one, and replaced its original candidate – all in less than a week.
While there are no legal and constitutional violations in this process, this still begs a question on why such a policy exists and why the COMELEC is allowing the candidates to utilize it this way. Considering the situation now, the supposedly sacred nature of COC filing ceases to exist, as the filing period serves as a lid hole for the political desires of power-grabbing politicians who play the game well in manipulating public trust. These ridiculous political dramas are being taken advantage of by ‘political gamers’, amplified by rules that only cater to the avaricious and self-serving interests of the powerful, and not on the gains of ordinary and striving Filipinos.
And when this game continues to be played and rules remain unchanged, we all know who’s going to lose in the end: those who never and barely get a taste of win in this flawed society.
As it stands, there is no law that mandates the candidates how exactly they should run for the position, but it should be a cause of concern how these “aspirants” are going through COCs like clothes in a week, or how easily they “substitute” for each other like pinch servers in a game.
These aspirants, who seemed to have enough time on their hands to make a mockery of our elections, only serve as a grim reminder of what comes next should they be allowed to play another around: still the same old circus with the same old tricks, hoping that if they repeat their lies well enough, the public will take them as the norm. And it shouldn’t be.
Running for a position takes serious commitment, and while changing one’s mind is not completely out of the question, so is the glaring fact that these substitution stunts are being pulled to elevate and secure a spot for certain candidates – another mockery of the substitution policy’s original purpose.
If a candidate has the gall to treat the matters of electing our new leaders as parlor games, then their promises too, should also be treated like one: flimsy, and easy to break.
Elections should not be treated like relay games where anyone can just simply pass their candidacy to anyone when it seems convenient and a winnable strategy. If politicians have the audacity to pull the same old tricks, then they are also bound to pull the same old governance: and we all know we cannot weather another round of political relays.