I’m not a gamer. In general, I don’t find games entertaining. That’s why I don’t find the game of substitution that politicians are currently playing amusing.

The period for filing of the certificates of candidacy for the 2022 elections has passed but new candidates can still emerge as political parties have until November 15 to field substitutes.

Death and disqualification seem like reasonable grounds for substitution. But withdrawal is open to abuse and exploitation.

If one files for candidacy, one is assumed to be able, willing and ready. So, withdrawals should be rare rather than rife. Today, however, not all who file for candidacy have a real intention to run for office.

The substitution rule originally intended to cover contingencies is now being utilized as a tactical tool.

Temporary candidates are being fielded to test the waters, to build suspense, to save places and to warm seats while the real candidates mull and make up their minds or while political parties buy time to pursue and persuade better candidates.

Substitutes must be nominated and belong to the same political party or coalition. But at a time when political party hopping is as common as bar hopping, this requisite is a dud.

And yet, November 15 is not the ultimate deadline for substitution. In case of death or disqualification, political parties have until mid-day of Election Day, May 9, 2022, to field substitutes with the proviso that the substitute and the original candidate share the same surname.

Despite the intent of practicality, doesn’t this practice perpetuate the scourge of political dynasties?

Substitution in the case of death or disqualification is reasonable if candidates belong to political parties with real ideologies. But for all intents and purposes, our candidates, today, actually run like independents. Whatever principles they hold are not necessarily tied to the political parties they choose to affiliate.

The Filipino electorate votes for a particular candidate not a political party. So, should a candidate die, it would not serve their interests to vote for an eleventh-hour replacement of their original candidate. Even one with the same surname.

Besides, we don’t run on a two-party system. And we don’t have a dearth of candidates.

The substitution proviso is archaic. Real political parties with real political ideologies no longer exist. But while reforms can be made, they cannot be made in time for the 2022 elections.

We should open our eyes to the substitution game being played to defraud the electorate, to game the system and to destroy our democratic processes. Sanctity is what we need from our leaders, not sham.

Let us not allow ourselves to be pawns in the games politicians play.