"What is lawful may not necessarily be moral."
Are we going to see a repeat of the 2016 election scenario where the PDP-Laban initially fielded an obscure former barangay captain as its presidential candidate but later substituted Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte as its official standard bearer?
If we do, then it may well be true, as Karl Marx once said, that history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce.
With the next presidential elections just around the corner, we witness once again the same tactic used in 2016 to confuse the opposition—as well as the electorate—about a political party’s actual plans, which is what candidate substitution really does.
We’re referring to Section 77 of the Omnibus Election Code, which allows the substitution of a candidate who has withdrawn after the last day for filing of certificates of candidacy (COCs).
At issue is the nomination of former top cop and now Senator Ronald de la Rosa as presidential bet of the Cusi wing of PDP-Laban. He filed his COC two hours before the deadline last October 8. This was totally unexpected as he came out of the blue and had not been considered at all as presidential timber. In fact, he is seen merely as “placeholder” for quite possibly presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio who is actually running for reelection as mayor but could well be persuaded to vie for the presidency.
As pointed out by former senator Rene Saguisag, the candidate substitution provision in the Omnibus Election Code “does not contribute to the healthy and robust development of political parties” because “the substitute who is not familiar with the political party’s platform of good government, objectives, and purposes can be forthwith sworn in as a member of the political party before the substitution.”
But what is lawful may not necessarily be moral, as it throws the election process into disrepute and violates the principle of fair play in what is supposed to be a sacrosanct political exercise where ordinary Filipinos get to choose whom they want to sit as president.
Because existing election rules allow candidate substitution, it is only on November 15 when we will finally get to know who would be fielded by the Cusi faction of the PDP-Laban as their presidential candidate.
De la Rosa may boast no end about his qualifications for the presidency—he claims to hold a Ph.D. in Policy Development from an obscure university in the Visayas—but maybe it would be better for him to talk less at this point. By saying that he would gladly give way to Sara Duterte if she chooses to run for president, he actually confirmed that he is merely warming the seat for somebody else, who just might turn out to be the presidential daughter.
If that’s the case, we really like what he himself has said in another context: Sh*t happens.
Rule of law
We forget now whoever it was who said that “there is plenty of law at the end of a nightstick.” That view essentially underpins authoritarian systems, including what we have now in this country. What we do know is that in a democratic system, there should be a government of laws and not of men. The rule of law is what underpins democratic governance. As I understand it, it means that no one is above the law and everyone is required to obey it.
In its latest report, the World Justice Project (WJP), an independent and multidisciplinary organization, showed the Philippines ranked 102 out of 139 countries on observance of rule of law, falling three notches on the list.
The WJP’s annual Rule of Law Index assesses the performance of 139 nations based on national surveys of over 138,000 families and 4,200 legal practitioners and experts worldwide.
Based on the report, the Philippines’ new overall rule of law score is 0.46, declining 2.9 percent from 0.47 in 2020.
The group’s framework for the rule of law covers eight criteria: Constraints on government powers, absence of corruption, open government, fundamental rights, order and security, regulatory enforcement, civil justice, and criminal justice.
The WJP’s survey indicated “significant trends for the Philippines included a deterioration in the factor measuring Order and Security.”
Regionally, the Philippines placed 13 out of 15 countries. The country also ranked 18th out of 35 among lower-middle-income nations.
According to the WJP, “with negative trends in so many countries, this year’s WJP Rule of Law Index should be a wake-up call for us all.”
“Rule of Law is the very foundation of communities of justice, opportunity and peace. Reinforcing that foundation should be a top priority for the coming period of recovery from the pandemic,” it pointed out.
The country’s low ranking in the global survey indicates one thing: The lack of respect for the rule of law, as manifested by the failure of the government to reform the justice system in the country amid widespread corruption, rampant criminality and abuse of power by those in positions of authority.
We must institute reforms in the country’s justice system to ensure that crimes committed are dealt with according to law, or else we foster a climate of impunity where criminals manage to go scot-free to commit more crimes while thumbing their noses at authorities.