Key government officials met in Malacañang Thursday night to discuss the team-up of President Rodrigo Duterte and his trusted aide Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go in the next 2022 elections.
Attendees were mum on what transpired during the meeting first reported by the Daily Tribune per a senior Palace official privy to the event.
Go neither denied nor confirmed his attendance in the event purportedly attended by select Cabinet officials and other figures who are expected to play key roles in the Go-Duterte tandem.
In a phone call with the Tribune, the neophyte lawmaker told the public to count him out from politics, saying he is focused on aiding the government in its pandemic response.
“Count me out from politics. We are in the middle of a pandemic.
Let’s focus on the vaccination,” said Go, who is regularly given premium coverage and exposure by state media broadcasts during the pandemic.
“We can’t talk about politics if we can’t overcome this pandemic,” he added.
Duterte’s spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque also distanced from the said meeting in Malacañang, noting that he was in Negros Oriental on Wednesday where he held his press conference.
A Palace source, however, said that while the President has endorsed the possible presidential bid of Go in the 2022 national polls during an appearance in typhoon-hit Surigao del Sur last week, it still could not extinguish talks about the possibility of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte as the administration’s standard-bearer.
The source, in fact, said a Duterte-Duterte tandem is also likely, pointing to the Chief Executive as the vice president of his daughter.
“He (Go) is my president,” a Tribune source quoted Duterte as saying before a crowd of local officials in Surigao.
Duterte’s chief presidential legal counsel Secretary Salvador Panelo confirmed that the Philippine leader’s choice for his successor is narrowed down between Go and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio despite his insistence that he does not want his daughter to assume the government’s top post.
Panelo, in his daily program “Counterpoint”, assured the continuity of the president’s programs such as the campaign against drugs, criminality, and terrorism, should Go or the younger Duterte will be picked as the standard bearers of the administration.
Duterte-Carpio recently affirmed that she is not interested in seeking the top government post, even as she topped a survey by the research firm OCTA for potential successors of her father.
“The Run Sara Run Movement has already started and it is really surprising that many are now calling for Mayor Sara to run as president in the 2022 elections,” Panelo said.
“But the people have another choice. Here comes Senator Go. At least we have two choices.
If Mayor Sara’s decision that she will not run will not change, we still have other option,” Panelo added.
Panelo also expressed confidence that a Duterte-Duterte or Go-Duterte tandem will be a sure winner in the 2022 polls.
“The next vice president who is now the president can provide guidance to either Sara or Go once the tandem pushes through,” he said.
Panelo also said that the opposition should not belittle Go’s winnability, saying he was ranked third in the senatorial elections in 2019, noting his contributions in expediting Duterte’s priority measures.
“During the last elections, many doubted his capability as critics said he only served as aide of the president.
As you can see, from only number 24 in the surveys, he landed in the number 3 spot and almost became number 1 in the senatorial elections,” Panelo noted.
“Despite his busy schedules in the Senate and providing assistance to the people, he still attends the Cabinet meeting and officials schedules of the President.
Senator Go is very workaholic just like the President,” he added.
Panelo said that Go serves as bridge of Duterte in the legislature to assure the passage of his priority measures.
If Go is leaning towards the 2022 presidential run, he should be given the “respect and leeway” to heed this call, a ranking House member said.
“If he’s aspiring for the presidency, he should be given all the respect and leeway to fulfill (or) follow his mission in life,” Deputy Speaker Lito Atienza said during his daily online program.
The former Manila mayor made the comment when asked about President Duterte’s endorsement of Go’s presidency.
“We know that Senator Go is a good man, and he is the President’s trusted friend.
He is definitely one of the better senators today,” the House leader said.
“I will have no other reaction to that but when you endorse a good man, you’re doing a good service,” he added.
Before becoming a senator in 2019, Go served as the special assistant of the President since 1998 or 23 years ago when he was still the Davao City Mayor.