MANILA - As President Rodrigo Duterte got off his chopper at the Batasang Pambansa on July 22 to deliver his fourth State of the Nation Address, Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go was in tow, just like in the past three years.
But this time, Go is no longer the President's full-time aide; he is now a senator. That he was still by the President's side, instead of his colleagues at the legislature's plenary hall, raised the question: does Go remain a part-time aide or is he now a full-time lawmaker?
The neophyte senator sought to address this in a recent interview.
“Noon po as SAP (special assistant to the President), as secretary nasa tabi ako ni Pangulong Duterte. Ngayon ang ipa-priority ko ay Senado,” Go told reporters in a recent interview.
(When I was SAP, as secretary I was always beside President Duterte, but now my priority is the Senate.)
“Pero hindi ibig sabihin na hindi ko po tutulungan ang ating pangulo. Isa ang aming hangarin- ang kabutihan ng Pilipino.”
(But this does not mean I will no longer help the President. Our objective is the same- to help Filipinos.)
Go said even now that he is a senator, he would still accompany the President “in my own personal capacity.”
“Kung wala namang magiging conflict sa aking oras with my job as a senator, sasamahan ko pa rin si Pangulong Duterte,” he added.
(If there is no conflict with my time and job as senator, I would still accompany President Duterte.)
Go, whose bond with the President stretches back to Duterte's time as Davao City Mayor, had vowed to serve the chief executive until his dying day. He had also expressed willingness to go to jail with his boss.
And while now an elected official, Go could still be seen with the president in public events.
Just recently, Go was with Duterte during a visit to quake-hit Batanes. The presidential aide-turned-senator also remains a reliable source of information on happenings inside Malacañang.
Go’s election as senator has been seen by some Senate leaders as a boon for relations between the executive and legislative branches.
Some senators have expressed frustration over the President’s move to veto some bills passed by Congress, including those which he certified as urgent such as the coco levy and security of tenure bills.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said Go would serve as a de facto liaison officer between the two branches.
“Nag-complain kami sa kaniya tungkol sa pagve-veto nga ng certain bills. Sabi niya hindi na raw mangyayari, dahil syempre as a member of the Senate, he can assure the senators na talagang malalaman kaagad nila kung OK itong batas kay Presidente, may support sa gabinete,” Zubiri earlier said.
(We complained to him about the vetoing of certain bills. He said this won’t happen again because as a member of the Senate, he can assure the senators they would know if a proposed measure is supported by the President and his Cabinet.)
“You cannot discount the fact that he’s very close to the President.”
Go said they would work harder on measures so that those passed by the Senate would not be vetoed. Some senators had cited the mismanagement of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office, led by Secretary Adelino Sitoy, as they lamented the vetoes.
“Sayang ang panahon, sayang ang oras, pera ng gobyerno ng senado, sa pagdidinig ng batas na ito at mabi-veto lang. Sisikapin namin na mabawasan ito,” Go said.
(Time and government funds are being wasted every time a bill gets vetoed. We will endeavor to avoid this.)
Apart from serving as a bridge between the President and the Senate, Go also intends to shepherd bills that Duterte wants passed, including one reimposing the death penalty and another establishing a department for overseas Filipino workers.
On his free time, Go would also frequent various areas in the country, especially neighborhoods hit by fire, similar to Duterte's habit when he was still Davao City mayor. The move has also triggered talk that he might seek higher office in 2022.
Go, however, has dismissed any plans to run for president in the next elections.