MANILA — Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go, who is seeking the country's top job in the 2022 elections, said on Thursday he "never dreamed" of succeeding President Rodrigo Duterte, who he called the "best" leader the Philippines ever had.
Go, the President's closest aide who was described as “national photobomber” and “selfie king" during the early years of the current administration, called Duterte "the epitome of a strong, brilliant, and selfless leader powered by his love for the country."
"I regard President Rodrigo Duterte as the best president this country has ever had. And that put a lot of pressure to whoever succeeds him," Go said in a taped message for the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Aside from alleged disregard for human rights, Duterte is being hit by his critics for his foul language, jokes about sex and womanizing, supposedly "recycling" officials who have been fired over some alleged anomalies, and his policy toward China amid the latter's continuing incursions in the West Philippine Sea, among others.
But he and his allies have repeatedly defended his style and character, as well as his policies, and even cite his popularity based on surveys.
"Indeed, the successor will have big shoes to fill. I am now running for the presidency, something that I never dreamed of. Iniwasan ko po ang posisyon na ito," said Go, who started working for Duterte in 1998.
(I avoided this position.)
Go, who became senator in 2019, initially filed a candidacy for vice president even though he has until 2025 to serve as lawmaker.
Over the weekend, he registered as the substitute standard-bearer of Pederalismo ng Dugong Dakilang Samahan (PDDS), the same party under which Duterte, 76, is running for senator, after the latter's daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, filed her candidacy for Vice President.
Duterte said over the weekend he prodded Go to seek the country's highest post, adding he is not supporting the presidential bid of others, particularly former Sen. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr. and Sen. Manny Pacquiao.
Marcos and Duterte-Carpio are running in tandem next year. The former though is facing disqualification petitions at the Comelec over his tax evasion conviction a few decades ago.
"Fate has a way of turning things around. Presidency, I believe, is a matter of destiny. I leave my fate to God and to you, my fellow Filipinos," the 47-year-old Go said.
If he is elected president, Go said, "I vow to do my best everyday to serve the Filipino people selflessly."
"Uunahin ko ang inyong kapakanan. Tapat na serbisyo lang po ang puhunan ko. At kung mapagbibigyan, walang oras, ni minuto ang masasayang. Gagawin ko ang lahat maipaabot lang ang serbisyong nararapat para sa inyo, serbisyong may tapang at malasakit," he said.
(I will prioritize your welfare. My only capital is honest service. And if permitted, no hour, no minute will be wasted. I will do everything to give you the service you deserve, service that is brave and compassionate.)
GO VOWS 'SAME STRONG STANCE' vs DRUGS, CORRUPTION
Go said he would "continue the good programs" of the Duterte administration.
"In my administration, you can expect the same strong stance in the government’s fight against corruption, criminality and drugs," said Go, wearing a blazer embroidered with the phrase "DU30".
"This is crucial in creating an environment that is conducive for business, where everyone will feel safe," he added.
The International Criminal Court prosecutor's office is investigating thousands of killings under Duterte's anti-narcotics crackdown which it said is a possible crime against humanity for murder.
Analysts say it is crucial for Duterte to have a loyal successor to shield him from possible legal cases.
The President in October said his daughter would seek to replace him, with Go as running-mate.
In an interview over the weekend, Duterte said he was displeased with his daughter's decision to run for vice president, which he blamed on the Marcos camp.
In committing his support next year for Go, whose grandfather was a principal sponsor at his wedding with Elizabeth Zimmerman, Duterte cited his aide's honesty. "Sa taon na nagserbisyo siya sa akin... talagang honest."
(During the years that he served under me... he's really been honest.)
FIRST 100 DAYS
If he succeeds Duterte, Go said he would "pursue a path towards rapid and inclusive economic recovery" in his first 100 days in office.
"Our priority is to return to pre-pandemic economic status or even surpass it," said the presidential hopeful who has a management degree from the De La Salle University.
To do this, he said he would open more economic activities, support the tourism industry, and provide recovery packages to hardest hit sectors including MSMEs and agriculture and fisheries.
"We will also identify the 10 million poorest of the poor Filipinos and provide them with financial assistance, ayuda (aid) or jobs, and make zero-interest loans accessible to them," Go said.
He promised that in his first 100 days in office, 10,000 to 20,000 new free WiFi sites would be activated.
He said he would double the current 149 Malasakit Centers, which are one-stop-shop centers for medical and financial assistance.
Aside from Marcos, Pacquiao and Robredo, Go is expected to run against Vice President Leni Robredo, Sen. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson, labor leader Leody De Guzman and many others that the Comelec may declare as official candidates for the May 9, 2022 elections.
More than 90 individuals filed their candidacy for President next year, but the list will be trimmed in the coming weeks once the Comelec declares some as nuisance candidates.
The official campaign period for national position candidates for the 2022 polls will only open on Feb. 8, 2022.