MANILA, Philippines - The circus is in town.
This is how Commission on Elections Chairman Sixto Brillantes himself felt as candidates for senators trooped to the poll body's national offices to file their certificates of candidacy (COCs) Monday.
Even before office hours began at 8 a.m., supporters of different candidates ringed the Plaza Roma with their placards, streamers, marching bands and gimmicks.
First to file at 8 a.m. was Senator Koko Pimentel. Eight other people followed him in the hours between 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. when candidates of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) arrived to file their COCs.
These were Representatives Jack Enrile, JV Ejercito and Mitos Magsaysay; former Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri, Ernesto Maceda and Richard Gordon; former Tarlac Governor Tingting Cojuangco; and incumbent Senator Gregorio Honasan.
The so-called "Big 3" of UNA -- Vice-President Jejomar Binay, former President Joseph Estrada and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile -- as well as Rep. Manny Pacquiao and Senator Tito Sotto were on hand to give their support.
The "Big 3" each raised the hands of the candidates after they filed their COCs.
Enrile explained they may no longer fill up the slot vacated by Joey de Venecia who quit the race Monday morning to focus on his private
Estrada, for his part, understood why one of their adopted candidates and Fernando Poe Jr.'s daughter, Grace Llamanzares, joined
the Liberal Party instead.
Pandemonium broke loose at the ground floor of the Palacio del Gobernador shortly before the UNA bets arrived.
Brillantes did not contain his dismay at the festive atmosphere. He went down around noontime from his office at the 8th floor to check on the noise and talk to members of the Anti-Epal Movement.
Brillantes wanted the group to stop the festive atmosphere, as he called on candidates to give the filing of candidacies more dignity and respect.
He, however, conceded that nothing can be done to stop the festive atmosphere as people were not breaking any law.
Candidacies will be accepted from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Mondays to Fridays.
So far, no untoward incidents have been reported nationwide in relation to the filing of COCs for senators and local officials.
Twelve senators, 233 district congressmen, 58 party-list congressmen, and thousands of local officials will be elected in the midterm polls next year.
The filing of candidacies was not without quirks.
Pimentel filed his COC, listing his estranged wife jewel as still his wife.
Enrile and Estrada arrived to support the candidacies of their sons, Jack and JV.
Estrada is now backing the candidacy of Gordon, with whom he clashed over the campaign to keep the US bases in the country in 1992.
He is also backing the candidacy of Magsaysay, who is a known ally of former President Gloria Arroyo, whom Estrada begrudges for EDSA Dos.
Magsaysay and Gordon belong to rival families in Zambales politics.