Philippines: Duterte’s Aide Withdraws from Presidential Race

Jeoffrey Maitem and Dennis Jay Santos
Davao, Philippines
2021-11-30
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Philippines: Duterte’s Aide Withdraws from Presidential Race Philippine Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go (right), accompanied by President Rodrigo Duterte, files his certificate of candidacy in Pasay City, Metro Manila, Oct. 2, 2021.
FOCAP pool/BenarNews

President Rodrigo Duterte’s loyal aide on Tuesday withdrew his candidacy for the presidency next year, narrowing the competition in the race to lead the Philippines.

Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go initially filed papers to run for vice president before entering the presidential race earlier this month. On Tuesday, he said it was not the right time to seek higher office.

“My family doesn’t want it either, so I thought maybe it is not my time yet. Only God knows when the right time is,” Go told reporters.

The 47-year-old was a long-time executive for Duterte and personal assistant before being elected senator in 2019.

Go’s withdrawal leaves the field of serious contenders to Vice President Leni Robredo, the opposition candidate; international boxing star Manny Pacquiao; Sen. Panfilo Lacson; Manila Mayor Francisco Domagoso; and Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the 64-year-old son and namesake of the former dictator.

Duterte had announced his support for Go, while his own daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, is running for vice president on a ticket with Marcos Jr., whose nickname is “Bongbong.”

“I don’t want President Duterte trapped in the middle because I love him as a father – he is old, and he has already given much to the country. I don’t want to add to his problems. I will remain loyal to him and I vow to be with him forever,” Go said.

While Duterte’s vice president, Robredo, beat Marcos Jr. in the 2016 election, recent opinion polls have Marcos in the lead with Robredo trailing. In the Philippines, the president and vice president are elected separately as part of government checks and balances.

Meanwhile, Domagoso said he would welcome endorsements from Duterte or other officials.

“I am hoping for all the help I can get. So I need allies, loyalists, believers, followers and volunteers. So if they choose me, thank you. Thank you in advance,” he said in a statement.

“I do not want to preempt them until they say so. For the meantime, I’m always hopeful,” he said, referring to the Duterte camp.

Apart from the president, vice president and 12 senators, voters will elect all 316 House seats and about 18,000 official positions ranging from governors to mayors and town councilors in the May 9, 2022, election.

Potential consolidation

A political analyst said Go’s exit likely will consolidate pro-government forces as his camp expected several disqualification cases against Marcos Jr. to not pan out.

Marcos Jr. has been opposed by several groups, including rights advocates and activists who suffered under his father’s rule. They have cited his past conviction for tax evasion, asking for his disqualification.

Allegations of human rights abuses were rife as thousands of activists went missing or were killed during the rule of the Ferdinand Marcos, who served as president from 1965 to 1986 and who declared martial law in 1972.

The elections body has yet to decide on these cases, though the hearing for the first case started last week.

“To clear out the air, they made a decision. His camp may have gotten information that the Comelec [Commission on Election] will not disqualify Marcos,” said Ramon Beleno III, head of the political science and history department at Ateneo De Davao University in southern Davao City, Duterte’s hometown.

“It’s a strategic move so as not to divide the votes in favor of the administration,” Beleno told BenarNews.

Go said his “heart and mind are contradicting my own actions” in the past few days regarding his decision to run for president.

“There is resistance within my body, heart and mind. I am only a human who gets tired,” he said. “Those are my reasons. That is why I am withdrawing from the race.

“I am willing to make the supreme sacrifice for the good of our country and for the sake of unity among our supporters.”

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said there would be no Partido Demokratiko Pilipino (PDP)-Laban candidate to replace Go following his exit from the race.

“Since it would be a voluntary withdrawal, there is no substitution,” he said, noting that Go has to appear before Comelec officials to formalize his withdrawal.

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