Bong Go on running for senator: “started as a joke but…”

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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 17 March) — Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go declared on February 7 that he was not running for a Senate seat in the 2019 mid-term elections, that President Rodrigo Duterte was just joking and that he was committed to “stand beside him (Duterte) ’til kingdom come.”

“Joke lang ni PRRD yung pagtakbo ng senador.. I’m not interested to run kasi i’m committed to serve Mayor Rody hanggang kamatayan, kung di ako muna,” he said.

A month later, Go’s senatorial bid appears to be a go, with no less than the President, whom he served as Executive Assistant and personal aide from 1998 and since June 30, 2016 as Special Assistant and head of the Presidential Management Staff, as his endorser.

Other endorsers include Cabinet secretaries, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte and on Wednesday, “Ready, Set, Go!,” a campaign to push Go to run for the Senate was launched in Manila with Cabinet secretaries in attendance.

“All these started as a joke but with the overwhelming support and encouragement of no less than Mayor Rody (President Duterte) and his supporters, I cannot just set this aside. For the Mayor to say that he will support me to the hilt if I decide to run is more than I could ask for,” Go said in a statement on March 14.

Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence Go interacts with the spectators during President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s inspection on the operational condition and the upgraded facilities of Lal-lo Airport in the municipality of Lal-lo, Cagayan province on March 14, 2018. KARL NORMAN ALONZO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

“For the Mayor (President) to say that he also wants me to seek a higher post, to prove something to myself and that I could also grow, only shows how unselfish Mayor Rody is. I am deeply humbled by his inspiring words. But like I said, it is still too early to talk about politics,” Go said.

“Trabaho po muna ako para sa Pangulo at para sa bayan. At tulad po ng sinabi ko sa Senado, at maging sa umpisa pa man, magsisilbi po ako kay Mayor Rody hanggang kamatayan [I will continue working for the President and for the country. And like I said at the Senate hearing (on the frigate controversy) and even at the very beginning, I will serve Mayor Rody until I die], said Go, who is turning 44 on June 14.

On February 15, Alvarez, PDP-Laban Secretary-Genreal told a gathering of the political party in Negros Oriental that he wants Go in the party’s Senate slate for the 2019 polls.

In response, Go on February 16 reiterated “hindi po ako interesado tumakbo sa senado sa 2019” (I am not interested in running for the Senate in 2019), that he would serve Duterte until death, but added, in jest, that if Alvarez fulfills his promise to make him his godfather at his wedding, “I might change my mind.”

On March 11, Go, responding to the call of Agriculture Senator Manny Pinol for him to run for Senator said: “it is too early to talk about the next election. What is more important right now is for me to focus on the fulfillment of the promises of the President to uplift the lives of our countrymen. I am deeply flattered by the support of some cabinet secretaries, especially DA Secretary Manny Pinol.”

On March 13, Go issued yet another statement, this time thanking Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, the President’s daughter.

“I am humbled by the endorsement of our beloved City Mayor Inday Sara. The Dutertes, the Father, the Daughter, are my inspiration and the example of being a true public servant. Kahit maaga pa na pagusapan ang politiko, ni ‘di ko pa naisip ang tumakbo, ngunit  sa mga salitang binitawan ng ating mahal na Mayora Inday Sara, ngayon pa lang nakakataba ng puso at nakakawala ng pagod kahit na 24 oras akong mag trabaho” (Even if it is still early to talk politics, and I’ve not even thought of running, what Mayor Inday Sara said is heartwarming and takes out the stress even if I work 24 hours), he said.

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar at the launch of “Ready Set Go” on Wednesday, March 14, 2018 in Intramuros, Manila. Photo from the Ready Set GO Movement

Si Mayor Rody po ang nagbigay lakas loob po sa akin na ipagpatuloy ang paninilbihan sa bansang Pilipinas. Pangako ko po sa Pamilyang Duterte pagsisilbihan ko po ang kanilang ama habambuhay kahit saan man po kami pupulutin balang araw, dahil po malaki ang utang na loob ko sa Pamilyang Duterte” (Mayor Rody gave me the courage to continue serving our country. I promise the Duterte family that I would serve their father forever, wherever we will be in the future, because I am deeply grateful to the Duterte family).

“Kahit saan man ako dalhin ng aking kapalaran, sasamahan ko si Pangulong Duterte hanggang kamatayan. Si Mayor Sara naman po nakikita ko din sa kanya ang isang Pangulong Rody Duterte sa kanyang panenerbisyo ng buong puso” (Wherever fate awaits me, I will accompany President Duterte until death. In Mayor Sara, I see a President Rody Duterte in her commitment to serve wholeheartedly), he said.

October 16, 2015

Go has been described as the most powerful Cabinet member, having full access to Duterte in the office or at home. Outside Cabinet meetings and scheduled functions, Cabinet secretaries, leaders of Congress and other key government officials go to Go to gain access to the President.

The management graduate from De La Salle University has been Duterte’s aide for 20 out of his 32 years in politics, the keeper of his schedules as well as his secrets. Go is at his service from the time the President begins his day after lunch, until he calls it a day at dawn or early morning the next day.

When Go was implicated in the frigate deal controversy, Duterte was quick to his defense, clearing him immediately even before an investigation could begin. Go appeared before the Senate Committee investigating the deal, denying involvement.

During the election campaign in 2016 Go was always (and continues to be until today) within the frame of photographs or video footages either beside Duterte, behind him or ahead of him, earning him the “national photobomber” title. But his role in Duterte’s ascent to the Presidency was more than just being on his side at his every turn.

Duterte disappointed his supporters on October 15, 2015 when the Davao City mayor of 22 years filed his certificate of candidacy (COC) for what would be his 8th term as Mayor.

The last day for filing COCs for President was at 5 p.m. the next day, October 16, at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Manila.

Duterte’s COC: for City Mayor
Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s final word on the Presidency is a “No” as the message on the shirt of Chief Executive Assistant Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, states. Go accompanied City Administrator Melchor Quitain whom Duterte authorized to file his Certificate of Candiday for reelection as City Mayor, at the Commission on Elections office in Davao City at 2;40 p.m on Thursday, October 15, 2015. MindaNews photo by ANTONIO L. COLINA IV

Supporters hoped Duterte would change his mind.

Go recalled in a telephone interview with MindaNews on Friday  that he had anticipated Duterte would be a no-show at the Comelec in Manila. His nocturnal boss was still asleep mid-morning when he phoned Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, PDP-Laban party president, suggesting that somebody from the party file a COC for President.

“It was my idea,” Go said, “para hindi magalit ang mga tao” (so his supporters won’t get mad) and they will be given a “slim hope” should his boss decide to finally run for President. Substitution was allowed until December 10.

Go said he told Pimentel “dili ko pasalig” (I cannot guarantee) that Duterte would change his mind and run as a substitute candidate.

Go said when he spoke with Duterte at around 1 p.m., he asked him if he would go to Manila but Duterte scolded him instead. “Otro pud ka. Nagpadala sa ila” (You’re just like them)

Rumors flew thick and fast that Duterte had boarded a plane for Manila (in fact, there was a plane on standby). Party officials told the crowd that gathered in the Comelec in Manila that he was arriving.

Go said that at 4 p.m., when reports were still saying Duterte was on his way to Manila, he had to announce through the media that Duterte was in Davao.

By 4 p.m., the PDP-Laban had not fielded a candidate for President. Go said PDP officials may have been confident Duterte would show up that the contingency plan he said he suggested had not been acted upon, until the final word that Duterte was not arriving.

Martin Dino of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption filed his COC as PDP candidate for President at 4:59 p.m., a minute before the 5 p.m. deadline. Apparently done in haste, what was written in his COC for President was that he was running for the position of mayor of Pasay City.

Bong Go wears a “No is Go” shirt on 27 November 2015 at the Commission on Elections in Davao City when Mayor Rodrigo Duterte withdrew(behind Go) his certificate of candidacy for Mayor with daughter Sara substituting for him. On the same day, Duterte’s lawyer filed in the Comelec in Manila his COC for President. Photo posted on Bong Go’s FB page

Dino withdrew his candidacy on October 29. On November 27, Duterte withdrew his COC for mayor and ran for President.

Petitions were filed to disqualify him, citing among others, the alleged defective COC of Dino. The petitions were dismissed. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

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