Thursday, November 15, 2018
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Go steals limelight from Poe, Villar et al.

ELECTORAL FRENZY The filing of certificates of candidacy reaches fever pitch on Monday as Sen. Grace Poe (top, clockwise), Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong’’ Go with his chief endorser President Duterte, Sen. Cynthia Villar, Maguindanao Rep. Sajid Mangudadatu, former Sen. Lito Lapid, Sen. JV Ejercito and Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano formally declare their intentions to run for Senate seats. —MARIANNE BERMUDEZ AND EDWIN BACASMAS

Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go on Monday got a lot more attention than the other senatorial hopefuls who also filed their certificates of candidacy (COCs) at the main office of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Go was joined by a big group of supporters, three Cabinet officials and President Rodrigo Duterte himself when he filed his COC.

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It was a flagrant disregard of Comelec rules on the filing of certificates, which limit the number of companions for senatorial aspirants to four.

It was also the first time in recent memory that a sitting President accompanied an aspirant in filing his COC.

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Among those who also filed their COCs on Monday were reelectionist Senators Cynthia Villar, Grace Poe and JV Ejercito, Maguindanao Rep. Zajid Mangudadatu, Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano and former Sen. Lito Lapid.

Twenty-six aspirants filed COCs for senator, bringing the current total to 63 on Monday.

Despite some two dozen supporters who came and filled the Comelec media briefing room, Go said no government resources were used in the filing of his COC.

“What resources are you talking about? Did we use any resource in going here?” said Go, a trusted aide of Mr. Duterte for 21 years. He is running under the banner of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan.

Comelec reminder

Apart from Mr. Duterte, those who accompanied Go were Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Presidential Communication Secretary Martin Andanar, Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission Chair Greco Belgica and former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre.

A day before the start of the COC filing last week, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez reminded senatorial aspirants that they were allowed to bring with them only four companions.

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For party-list groups, a 10-person limit was set, which includes the five nominees of the party.

Jimenez said then that the restriction was put in place to make the process a “dignified” exercise.

So what happened on Monday?

Jimenez admitted that because of the “emotion of the moment, some rules might have been relaxed.”

He, however, gave assurance that an investigation would be conducted to determine who should be held accountable to “prevent a repeat of the incident.”

Special allowances

“Special allowances had to be made considering the personalities involved,” Jimenez said.

“The basis is not partisan. The basis is reality. We don’t know what happened at the entry point, but we’ll make sure we’ll be better equipped to prevent this kind of situation from happening again,” he said.

Go, who claimed that his Senate run was “not for myself but for my fellow Filipinos,” was the last aspirant to file his COC on Monday.

He spent several minutes praying at San Miguel Church near Malacañang before announcing his plan to seek a Senate seat.

He arrived at the church a little past 2 p.m., riding a Yamaha NMax motorcycle despite the heavy downpour.

After praying, Go emerged teary-eyed, taking a few more minutes to compose himself before speaking to reporters.

He said he would pursue the improvement of medical services as a personal advocacy in the Senate, having witnessed the poor, pitiful condition of patients in public hospitals.

TRAIN senators

For their part, senators seeking reelection expressed confidence that their vote for the passage of the administration’s Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law would not negatively affect their campaign.

Villar, the first to file her COC on Monday, said traders took advantage of the public by increasing the price of rice.

She reasoned that she was unable to predict that the fuel prices would soar to its current levels.

“We voted on a TRAIN that was different from the final version,” Ejercito said. “[The inflation provision] was taken out of the final version in the bicameral [conference committee].”

Poe, an independent running as an adopted candidate of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, pointed out that her support for the TRAIN law was due to the assurance that the government would put in place social safety nets.

“The problem was they were already able to collect the money but was unable to release the assistance immediately to those who need it. That aggravated the situation,” she said, blaming the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Department of Transportation for the delay.

Mar Roxas video

Former Sen. Mar Roxas ended his “semiretirement” from politics.

“If you think that I could still be of help, I’m ready. I’m again offering myself to you. And I also ask for your help because I cannot do this alone,” Roxas said in a video message he posted on Facebook.

Roxas, who was visibly slimmer, had stayed away from politics and the public eye after placing second to Mr. Duterte in the May 2016 elections as the standard-bearer of the Liberal Party.

A source told the Inquirer that Roxas would be filing his COC on Tuesday morning. —WITH A REPORT FROM MARLON RAMOS

Click here for more elections stories.

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TAGS: 2019 elections, Bong Go, certificates of candidacy, Christopher Go, COCs, Cynthia Villar, Gary Alejano, Grace Poe, JV Ejercito, Lito Lapid, senatorial candidates, Zajid Mangudadatu
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