LETTERS FROM DAVAO
By Jun Ledesma
SOME quarters are belittling Vice Presidential aspirant Christopher “Bong” Go. A first-termer in the Senate, yes, yet he is always part of the vilification campaign by “Oust Duterte“ movement and the opposition propaganda machinery from day one.
Starting off as an Executive Assistant to the newly installed President Rodrigo Duterte whom he had served for over two decades when the former was still mayor of Davao City, Bong was dragged into the controversial acquisition of naval frigates. He was unkindly suspected to be endorsing one supplier over the others when all he did was merely endorse documents brought to the attention of Malacanang to agencies concerned. That was to be his acid test. The poor guy was summoned to a Senate hearing where he faced the senators confident of the fact that he has absolutely nothing to do with the transaction which was already a done deal during the Aquino administration. The inquisitors were out to skin him but stopped when the head of the Philippine Navy categorically said that Bong Go has no hand at all in the negotiation.
As fate had it, Bong Go became Senator. Because he was part of the ruling party, he was assigned committees where he best fit. Being into various sports he was given the chairmanship of the Committee on Sports and the Committee on Health and Demography. Why the health committee? Back in Davao City, he was tasked by his boss, then-Mayor Duterte to organize and head “Lingap” Lingap is the mayor’s equivalent of a ‘corporate social responsibility program that attends to the medical or hospitalization needs of indigent patients of Davao City. Lingap became a byword in the Davao region and it came to the point that it extended help to patients coming from other regions in Mindanao. “We just cannot refuse them Mayor”, I heard Bong Bong Go telling his boss.
In the current investigation of the Yellow Ribbon Committee, Bong is not spared by his colleagues -- the leading three re-electionists, Dick Gordon, Frank Drilon, and Risa Honteveroz. Expect the tirades to escalate now that he has filed his certificate of candidacy for Vice President. Given all the negative sound bytes from the opposition even as they are fractured, the Mindanao Senator will be the main target of the anti-Duterte factions.
But why are the opposition turrets aimed at Bong Go? Who are the other vice presidential aspirants by the way? What have they done to merit votes? Let’s do a quick scan.
Rep. Lito Atienza, the running mate of Manny Pacquiao. He once was mayor of Manila and all I can remember is that he put up some decorative lamp posts in the red district of Malate and Ermita. Wikipedia records the following: Atienza's appointment as DENR Secretary was a shock to environmental groups, who had dubbed him as the "butcher of Arroceros." As Manila mayor, Atienza, in 2003, enraged environmentalists when he ordered the closure of the Arroceros Forest Park to give way to the building of an education office and a teacher's dormitory, sparking a lawsuit. The Kalikasan People's Network said Atienza had no moral authority to be at the helm of the DENR because he had "neither had sterling qualifications nor a clean track record of protecting the environment as former Manila Mayor." Atienza too has the distinction of ordering the demolition of various heritage buildings in Manila.
Senator Tito Sotto, the VP bet of Reporma and “Eat Bulaga” has chalked in over two decades in the senate hall. Once in his Senate career, he was involved in the campaign against illegal drugs and was in favor of exacting the death penalty against drug lords. But what stuck to his name was the sensational rape case and suicide of starlet Pepsi Paloma and then later the murder of Paloma’s talent scout Rey dela Cruz. He was also among the senators who convicted and removed former Chief Justice Renato Corona during the impeachment trial. He is the incumbent Senate President.
Willie Ong is a doctor and running mate of Isko Moreno. He is popular in social media for his numerous advertising placements on Facebook of some wonder drugs against an array of diseases. While there may be millions of arthritic patients who click the site and are lured into buying those not-so-cheap miracle creams, there might be more who are angry the drugs he endorses are nothing but like placebos.
Senator Kiko Pangilinan is running for VP to partymate Leni Robredo. He made a name for introducing a Senate bill that would keep children in conflict with the law out of detention. The law was later branded as the singular reason for the increase of crimes committed by minors. Some wags say he patterned his bill with the law that was passed and implemented in New York City. The enforcement of that law, moreover, was later withdrawn as it increased juvenile crime in the Apple city. Kiko was the only lawmaker that was against the grant of “ayudas” to families affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Senator Bong Go who was being groomed to be PDP-Laban candidate for President repeatedly declined the nomination but agreed to take over from where President Duterte withdrew -- the vice presidency. Most trusted, intimate, and loyal to his boss, he learned the art of politics and public service from the man who was a few times vice mayor, a number of times a Mayor, once a congressman, and then known worldwide as the most trusted President by his constituents. In all these stints Bong was the action man. He stands to be the only senator who travels in all nooks and corners of the Philippines bringing the government closer to the people. Each time he brings a package of aid to fire and flood victims. He is a servant leader. As I write this piece, he was inaugurating the 143rd Malasakit Center, which through his legislative endeavor was institutionalized. As Senate Sports Committee Chairman, the Philippines made spectacular performances and became the grand champion of the SEA Games. In the recent Tokyo Olympics, the Philippines made history by bringing home the biggest haul of medals since 1924 -- one Gold Medal, two Silver medals, and one Bronze. Is it by coincidence?
Champions and true servant leaders are honed and shaped. You know who can best deliver.
About the Columnist
Mr. Jun Ledesma is a community journalist who writes from Davao City and comments from the perspective of a Mindanaoan.