MANILA (UPDATED) - Special Assistant to the President Bong Go's filing of candidacy was marred by an issue of rule violation after he was accompanied by more than 4 supporters, including President Rodrigo Duterte and several Cabinet members, when he filed his certificate of candidacy (COC) for senator on Monday.
The usually organized briefing room for senatorial candidates on the third flood of the Comelec headquarters in Intramuros erupted into chaos as some media members were asked to vacate seats and cameras had to be corded to allow give way to Go's crowd of supporters.
Under the Commission on Elections rules, each senatorial candidate may only bring 4 supporters when he or she files his or her election documents.
Among those in Go's entourage were Duterte, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, members of the Presidential Security Group, and at least 2 dozen other supporters.
Go said he had no idea why his entourage was exempted from the rule.
"Comelec po makakasagot niyan," he said.
Several adjustments had to be made for the arrival of the President, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said, admitting that "special allowances" were indeed given for the President's long-time aide.
"To the extent that special allowances had to be made, considering the personalities involved, yes," Jimenez told reporters when asked if there was special consideration for Go's case.
"The President was here, he has to be accompanied by his security. Because the safety of President is paramount, allowances had to be made for that," Jimenez said.
The poll body would probe how his other supporters went through the front gates, he said.
"I suspect it was because of the emotion of the moment that they were able to enter," he said.
'Difficult stand off'
Jimenez said Go's filing of candidacy was allowed to push through despite the violation as calling it off "would unduly hamper the proceedings."
"You saw for yourself how many people were here and you could probably imagine how difficult it would be to stand off with them," he said.
"Once they were inside, it is in the interest of orderly proceedings that we continue with the process as if they were just four," he said.
"It had to continue, it would not have been orderly if we stopped it," he added.
'No partisan politics'
Comelec Commissioner Socorro Inting, one of Duterte's appointees to the poll body, was seen welcoming some Palace officials who accompanied Go, but Jimenez said it had nothing to do with the seeming leniency on Go's violation.
"We adjusted, yes, but the basis is not partisan politics, the basis is not political party, the basis is reality," he said.
"The commissioners know what they can [do] and what is appropriate behavior so we can expect that that is something that they can decide for themselves," he added.
The Comelec is expected to probe the incident, but so far, there are no clear sanctions for parties that would be found liable.
"That will have to be determined later on by appropriate authorities, someone higher up the ranks," Jimenez said when asked what the "worst-case scenario" would be for those responsible for the lapse.
"We have to be able to consider how bad the offense was. We first have to determine how damaging this particular incident has been to the process," he said.