CHAOS marked the first day of filing of certificates of candidacy, presaging even worse problems on Election Day next year, one former poll official said Monday.
In a phone interview, the former poll official who asked not to be named expressed dismay over how the Comelec handled the crowd, particularly the candidates and the media.
“If you think there was no system during the filing, just imagine what it will be like during the elections,” the former official said.
The town mayor in Zamboanga Sibugay, Randy Climaco, became the first casualty of the 2016 elections after he was killed in an ambush hours after filing his certificate of candidacy for vice mayor. Six others who were with him, including the vice mayor of Tungawan, were wounded in the attack.
Police said Climaco’s group was aboard a pickup truck traveling from Barangay Batungan to Barangay Libertad in downtown Tungawan when they were ambushed by unidentified gunmen.
During the first day for the filing of COCs, Comelec officials and staff in their Manila head office had to deal with an unruly crowd inside and outside the Palacios del Gobernador.
In an interview, Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said the chaos was partly caused by the change in procedure where the Commission en banc decided to separate the room for the filing of COCs from the interview area.
While this affected the media coverage, the actual filing went well, Jimenez said.
Vice President Jejomar Binay and Senator Gringo Honasan were the first candidates who officially expressed their intent to run for president and vice president, respectively.
At exactly 8 a.m. the United Nationalist Alliance candidates went straight to the Project Management Office where they filed their COCs and then proceeded to one end of the lobby where the media were waiting.
Chaos ensued, however, as photojournalists jostled for position to get to the UNA candidates while they were walking toward the far end of the lobby.
After failing to contain the media, some staffers shouted at the reporters in the hall, demanding to know which media outlet they represented.
“You are not allowed to do an ambush interview here. The interview should be there,” one staff members said, pointing to the far end of the lobby.
Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista lost his patience and stood before the cameramen and tried to blocked them from shooting Binay and Honasan’s walk to the interview area.
Bautista, about six feet tall, tried to cover the lenses of at least five cameras to prevent them from filming the candidates.
Jimenez said this was the first time in the history of elections that Comelec officials and staff became aggressive in the way they handled the media.
“It’s never been like this, right?” said Jimenez, who also raised his voice at the journalists at some point.
In a radio interview, Bautista blamed the chaos on the media, saying they do not know how to follow rules.
“The problem was your colleauges. You need to follow the rules,” Bautista told reporters in an afternoon press conference.
A source in the poll body said the new procedure was Bautista’s idea to make the filing of COCs more orderly.
In the past, the filing of the COCs was held inside the PMO where media were also stationed so they could ask the candidates about their platforms and campaigns.
Jimenez said they would “fine tune” the process to avoid similar incidents when other popular candidates file their certificates.
During the day, the Comelec also bent its “three companions only rule” when most candidates refused to file their COCs without their families and relatives present.
In an ambush interview, Binay said it was the UNA selection committee that picked Honasan to be his running mate.
Honasan said his family was reluctant to let him run for vice president, but he convinced them to agree.
“They understand that this is a calling, a sense of duty. I am a good soldier. I am the result of the [selection] process that the party went through, so I will follow the party that I am helping organize,” Honasan said.
Others who filed for the presidency were former Technical Education and Skills Development Authority Augusto Syjuco Jr.; lawyer Elly Pamatong; and former Presidential Commission on Good Governance chief Camilo Sabio. The failed senatorial candidate who filed a disqualification complaint against Senator Grace Poe, Rizalito David, also filed his certificate as a candidate for president.
Former lawmaker Panfilo Lacson was the first to file a COC seeking to return to the Senate. He is running as an independent.
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares filed his certificate of candidacy also for the Senate, accompanied by his niece, actress Angel Locsin.
Colmenares said he was running so that someone in the Senate would fight for the people and work to increase salaries and pensions and decrease the cost of power and water.
On the first day, there were 22 aspirants for president, three for vice president, and 16 for senator.
Independent candidates included a farmer, a tricycle driver, an engineer, a military man and a law student,
On Tuesday, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is expected to file his COC for vice president.
Liberal Party candidates for the presidency and vice presidency, Manuel Roxas II and Rep. Leni Robredo, are expected to file their certificates Thursday, while Poe and Senator Francis Escudero are expected to file on the last day, Friday.
The start of a week-long registration process began on Monday for more than 18,000 positions up for grabs—from the presidency down to village captain level—in the May elections.
Another big name contesting next year’s elections is boxing hero Manny Pacquiao, who is expected to be able to capitalize on his fame to win a seat in the Senate.
Pacquiao, 36, is currently a member of the House of Representatives, and is widely seen as going for the higher-profile Senate post as a potential platform for an eventual presidential run. With AFP