The second placer is the candidate who obtained the highest number of votes in an election, but second only to the winning candidate. The second placer is always considered a loser. In fact, such a candidate is considered as one, falling behind the ‘demarcation line’ after the group of winning candidates. According to the rulings, he or she has not obtained the plurality of votes and thus, is not the choice of the Filipino people.
To cite a classic example, there is the case of Pepong, (a hypothetical name), running for the office of mayor in Baguio City sometime in 1988 but was disqualified for possessing a foreign citizenship which is a ground for disqualification to hold public office. He was ordered to vacate his office and to surrender the same to the Vice-Mayor pursuant to section 44 of the Local Government Code. The next time Pepong decided to run for office in the same city, was in 1992 where filed his certificate of candidacy, again, for Mayor. A disqualification case was immediately filed by another mayoralty candidate based on the ground that Pepong is not a natural-born citizen of the Philippines. Unfortunately for Pepong, the case was decided against him, even though he won in the elections. Finding Pepong and the second placer (the one who filed the disqualification case), both ineligible, the Vice-Mayor elect became Mayor.
In recent decisions of the Supreme Court, however, the second placer is given an opportunity to finally become a winner when he or she is allowed to take the place of the winning candidate. One case would be where Pepong, a natural-born citizen of the Philippines acquires US citizenship and thereafter returns to the Philippines to run for office in the 2010 National and Local elections, he tries to reacquire his Filipino citizenship under RA 9225 (Citizenship Retention and Reacquisition Act of 2003), he would have been successful, had it not been for the fact that, immediately thereafter, he used his US passport more than four times. So even if he won as mayor in the elections, he was disqualified for possessing dual citizenship. It was not the Vice-Mayor that took his place but it was the second placer. This was because Pepong is considered to be an ineligible candidate, it is as though, there is no candidate at all and the second placer is the one who obtained the highest number of votes
from among the qualified candidates. This same candidate Pepong again ran in the next elections in 2013 but because of his failure to follow a requirement under RA 9225, he was disqualified even if won in the elections. For the same reasons stated above, it was the second placer who took his place.
In another local case, Pepong ran for the office of Mayor in a municipality in Benguet in 2004, he was disqualified because he was previously convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude. The person who succeeded him was not the Vice-mayor elect but the second placer. The second placer was also considered as the only qualified candidate for mayor. Pepong was considered ineligible from the very beginning.
Given the above-mentioned cases, a second placer can be a winner after all. Indeed, jurisprudence in our country can change from time to time and these changes greatly benefit the second placer – for this moment.
A more detailed discussion concerning the theory of the Second Placer will be made in our Election Day Balitaktakan Segment on July 16, 2021 at 9:00 o’clock in the morning at RNG Luzon. See you there.
**All comments mentioned in this article are made in my personal capacity as a lawyer and are not made as an employee of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).