MANILA (2nd UPDATE) — President Rodrigo Duterte's anointed successor Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go said on Tuesday he was withdrawing his candidacy in the 2022 elections.
Go said he was removing himself from the presidential race because he did not want to add to Duterte's problems.
"Ayoko ko rin pong lalong maipit si Pangulong Duterte. Higit pa po sa tatay ang pagmamahal ko sa kanya," Go told reporters in a chance interview.
"Matanda na po siya at marami na rin siyang naibigay para sa bayan kaya ayaw ko na pong dagdagan pa ang kaniyang problema," he added.
(I do not want to President Duterte to be caught in the middle. My love for him is more than that of a father. He is already old and has given so much to the country, so I don't want to increase his problems.)
Go did not elaborate. The President's daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio is running for vice president in tandem with a different contender, former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.
Duterte earlier branded Marcos as a "weak leader," while praising his longtime aide Go as "honest" and hard-working.
Go said his family did not want him to run for president.
"In the past few days I realized that my heart and my mind are contradicting my action. Talagang nagre-resist po ang aking katawan, puso at isipan. Tao lang po ako na nasasaktan at natatakot din... Sa ngayon po iyon po ang mga rason ko, that is why I am withdrawing from the race," he continued.
(My body, heart and mind are resisting. I am only human, I get hurt and scared, too. For now, those are my reasons, that is why I am withdrawing from the race.)
Go added he had "no ambition" for the top job and had only prepared to run for vice president. Duterte in October said his daughter would run for president with Go as running-mate.
"Humihingi po ako ng paumanhin sa inyo… Hindi ko po ito napaghandaan," Go told his supporters.
(I apologize. I was not prepared for this.)
WHO WILL DUTERTE BACK?
Go said he and the President would a support candidates who can continue the current administration's infrastructure drive and COVID-19 response, among others.
Asked if the President would endorse his daughter's vice presidential run, Go said, "Hintayin po natin si Pangulong Duterte kung sino ang kaniyang susuportahan."
(Let us wait for President Duterte's announcement of who he will support.)
"Ayaw ko po siyang pangunahan," he added.
(I do not want to preempt him.)
Duterte earlier questioned his daughter's bid for the top 2 job, given her lead in surveys for the presidency. He even threatened to challenge her in the vice presidential race, but ended up registering as a substitute candidate for senator.
Go said he could not speak on Duterte's behalf, when asked if the President would continue his Senate run.
His exit from the presidential race leaves ruling party PDP-Laban and its ally PDDS without a standard-bearer.
The senator said Duterte "respects" his withdrawal from the elections.
Go's first term in the Senate ends in 2025.
— With reports from Jamaine Punzalan and Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News