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Substitution in Barangay Elections

Former Mayor Bitong Bigote of the municipality of Budol decides to file his Certificate of Candidacy (COC) for the position of barangay captain. The former mayor, after taking a much-awaited vacation abroad, thinks that he is again ready to throw his hat in the political ring. Now with a fully-grown mustache, he feels that he could get lucky this time. Still plump and morbidly obese, Bigote thinks that he can easily outrun his contender, Pepong Malutong, a crusty, lean fellow, who is just an ordinary citizen who tries hard to please the people, yet he is as healthy as a horse.

Little does Bigote know that the campaign period would take a toll on his already fragile health. While eating a bowl of tasty, succulent and greasy pares at the barangay carinderia, people gathered around him to shake his hand. So excited, he seemed to believe that the voters like him. As a result, his heart kept on pumping extra beats. Soon his arteries gave way. As they can no longer distribute blood to Bigote’s entire body, his chest contracted. As a last gesture, he squeezed his facial muscles and was barely able to scratch the tip of his mustache until he suddenly fell flat on his contorted face on the muddy ground. The medical results reveal that the former mayor suffered a heart attack. He arrived at the hospital already lifeless but even heavier.

During his wake and still during the campaign period, Bigote’s widow, Mrs. Bicky writes the Commission on Elections, asking for permission if she could substitute her deceased mustached husband as a candidate for barangay captain. Knowing of this circumstance, Malutong immediately opposes the move, quoting a provision in the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines, particularly section 77 thereof, a portion of which states that: “If after the last day for the filing of certificates of candidacy, an official candidate of a registered or accredited political party dies, withdraws or is disqualified for any cause, only a person belonging to, and certified by, the same political party may file a certificate of candidacy to replace the candidate who died, withdrew or was disqualified.” Malutong stresses that since this is the applicable law, the barangay elections, being non-partisan, then it follows that there is no substitution for independent candidates. Is Pepong Malutong correct?

The facts herein are similar to the case of Rulloda vs. Comelec G.R. number 154198, January 20, 2003, where the widow substitutes the deceased husband in the barangay elections. The Supreme Court made a pronouncement that “Contrary to the Respondent’s claim, the absence of a specific provision governing substitution of candidates in barangay elections cannot be inferred as a prohibition against said substitution. Such a restrictive construction cannot be read into the law where the same is not written. Indeed, there is more reason to allow the substitution of candidates where no political parties are involved than when political considerations or party affiliations reign, a fact that must have been subsumed by law.” It was also emphasized that since the widow in this case obtained the plurality of votes, “technicalities and procedural niceties in election cases should not be made to stand in the way of the true will of the electorate. Laws governing election contests must be liberally construed to the end that the will of the people in the choice of public officials may not be defeated by mere technical objections.”

It is clear that candidates for the barangay elections may be substituted, most especially so if they have obtained the mandate of the people.

***Comment/s stated in this article are made by me in my personal capacity as a lawyer and not as an employee of the Comelec.

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