- A total of 558 candidates in the local level will win by default as they are running unopposed
- Ilocos Region has the most number of uncontested races with Ilocos Sur on top of all provinces
- The uncontested positions expose both positive and negative aspects of local governance
As the campaign period for local position officially rolls out, at least 558 candidates are already assured victory simply because they are running unopposed.
Data from the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) shows that at least 12 provinces will be led by governors who will win the election by default.
All in all, 32 candidates for congressmen, 194 for municipal mayors, 226 for municipal vice mayors, 30 for municipal councilors, 21 for city mayors, 23 for city vice mayors, 1 for city councilor, 12 for governors, 11 for provincial vice governors, and 8 for Sangguniang Panlalawigan board members, are running in uncontested races.
A number of candidates running unopposed are incumbents, including some high-profile personalities such as former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos, and Pampanga Governor Lilia Pineda.
The Ilocos Region has the most number of uncontested races at 66, with Ilocos Sur being the province with the most number of unopposed candidates at 25. Neighboring Ilocos Norte has 19 unopposed poll bets while Pangasinan, also in the same region has 16.
Incidentally, other regions and provinces comprising the so-called “Solid North” are among those with the highest concentration of unopposed candidates this election cycle. The Cordillera Administrative Region has 40 bets unchallenged while Cagayan Valley has 39.
In particular, the province of Isabela has 21 uncontested races, Apayao has 11, while Cagayan has 10.
Other areas across the country have the same situation. The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), infamous for being an election hot spot, has a total of 64 candidates who will win by default, followed by Western Visayas with 57.
Meanwhile, MIMAROPA has 38 uncontested positions while Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao, and Caraga, all have 36 each.
The relatively huge number of uncontested elections in the local level expose both positive and negative aspects of local governance in the country.
On one hand, they could be an indication of real popularity and satisfaction among the electorate.
“Sometimes if a candidate is very popular and is known for his good performance, nobody would run against him because that will only be a waste of time and money,” veteran election lawyer Romulo Macalintal told PhilStar.
However, this could also reveal the power of political dynasties across the different provinces in the country; thus leaving citizens with not much choice.
“No one would also dare oppose him in an election because they are likely to win anyway. To ensure peaceful elections, having unopposed candidates is good but it leaves the voters with no choice. It also deprives new leaders an opportunity to run in elections,” Macalintal added.