Comelec eyes limit on substitution period for bets

Rhodina Villanueva - The Philippine Star
Comelec eyes limit on substitution period for bets
Comelec Chairman George Garcia on February 13, 2024.
STAR / Jesse Bustos

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is looking at imposing a limit on the period when substitutes can replace candidates who withdraw their certificates of candidacy (COCs) in the May 2025 midterm elections.

At a recent press briefing, Comelec Chairman George Garcia disclosed that the poll body would set an early deadline for accommodating substitute candidates.

“We are looking at Oct. 1 to 8 for the filing of COCs. During that period, we will allow withdrawals and have the right to be substituted,” Garcia said.

He added that after Oct. 8, the Comelec may no longer allow any substitution in cases of candidates withdrawing their candidacies.

Garcia explained that they are avoiding a repeat of previous instances, wherein substitute candidates appeared closer to election day following the withdrawal of those who originally filed their COCs.

“Let us not deceive the people. Those who really wanted to run, they should come out and immediately file their COCs,” he said.

The Comelec, however, pointed out that it would continue to accept substitution of candidates for those who are disqualified or in case of death of the original candidate.

During the May 2022 elections, the Comelec set the filing period for COCs from Oct. 1 to 8, 2021, but allowed the substitution due to withdrawal of candidates until Nov. 15 of the same year.

Social media

Meanwhile, the Comelec is urging Congress to help the poll body in regulating social media during election season.

Garcia said they are seeking Congress’ assistance to help police social media platforms such as Facebook, TikTok and X (formerly Twitter), particularly during the election period.

“The problem with social media is we don’t have any existing law that regulates it. It is very difficult to regulate because it may infringe on freedom of expression,” he said at the same briefing.

He added that there may even be some creating and using fake accounts so it would be more difficult for the Comelec to trace the owners of such accounts.

“That is why our call is for Congress to regulate social media,” Garcia said, adding that in the case of mainstream media, like television and radio, contracts are submitted wherein airtime is indicated.

It is the same for newspapers, wherein the sizes of advertisements, like whether whole or half page, are also observed, according to the Comelec chief.

“But in social media, how do we that? We can send them (FB, Tiktok, X, etc.) a request, but they might only be able to comply several months after the elections. We are not able to police them because there is no law that applies to them,” Garcia stressed.

“There is no crime if there is no law punishing it. The Comelec cannot define a crime; only Congress can do that, thus, we are hoping that this issue can be carefully studied,” he further noted.

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