Recall the events that transpired on October of 2015, as the deadline for the filing of certificates of candidacy for the 2016 national elections drew close.
Despite the entreaties of his legion of supporters, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of Davao did not appear before the Commission on Elections in Intramuros. Instead, his faithful executive assistant, Bong Go, appeared before the Comelec registrar in Davao City to file the COC for a reelectionist Duterte.
We thought it was the “end of the world.” Our candidate for president wrote finis to our dreams and hopes for a better Philippines.
When he appeared at the Davao City Comelec office, Bong Go wore a t-shirt which proclaimed in big letters that “No is no.”
Days after, during the birthday celebration of lawyer Salvador Medialdea at the Peking Garden in Greenbelt, Makati, the “non-candidate” Duterte appeared. It took him an hour to reach the restaurant from the ground floor lobby, because crowds upon crowds of shoppers demanded selfies with him.
After dinner, the non-candidate spoke before some 40 of Medialdea’s guests, many of us pre-campaign initiators of the Davao City mayor’s “ended” quest.
And to our pleasant surprise, he kept the flames burning. “No” is not “never.” There still was the prospect of substitution before the deadline. The rest is history.
Bingbong Medialdea is now executive secretary. And Christopher Lloyd Go, best known as Bong Go, is special assistant to the President.
I recall these events because weeks ago, a surprised Bong Go was mentioned by the President in impromptu remarks as a “future senator” of the republic. Bong immediately demurred before media and said his only remaining ambition is to serve the president he has been loyal to for almost of his adult life, “until his dying days.”
But “murmurings” in the corridors of power are growing louder about Bong Go’s likely plunge into national elections next year. And he has only until the first week of October this year to make up his mind.
Is “No” going to be “Yes”? Is this a repeat of 2016, this time with the assistant himself gunning for high national office?
As they say, “abangan ang susunod na kabanata.”
* * *
Last Friday afternoon, we witnessed the turnover of two units of hyperbaric chambers to the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City.
September last year, the President told us of his desire to have hyperbaric chambers installed as soon as possible in Davao and Zamboanga. Aside from its common use as a de-compression facility for dive accident victims, hyperbaric chambers hasten the healing of open-wound victims, such as soldiers and even civilians caught in the maelstrom of strife. It was the height of the Marawi conflict, and Duterte rued the loss of lives of the wounded who could have yet been saved if there was a hyperbaric facility available.
The Manila Economic and Cultural Office which I currently head is directly under the Office of the President, and so our board of directors authorized the purchase of the chambers, Taiwan being one of the world’s leading manufacturers of this specialized equipment.
Last Friday, with Secretary Bong Go acting as proxy for the President, and Deputy Speaker Mylene Garcia Albano, congresswoman of the Davao City district, the facility inside the SPMC compound was turned over by Meco for the Office of the President and Tieza, the tourism infrastructure agency, which constructed the building to house the equipment, to SPMC Medical Director Leopoldo Vega and his staff.
A bigger facility will soon be built in Zamboanga City and the multi-chamber equipment coming from Taiwan will be installed by the last quarter of this year. These are “firsts” for Mindanao, coming from the first Mindanao president.
* * *
What the High Commissioner of the UN Human Rights Commission Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, a Jordanian prince, said about our President is simply unacceptable. He insults not Duterte but the Filipino people, an overwhelming majority of whom support their duly elected leader in his war against drugs and his efforts at forging a lasting peace.
We are a sovereign nation, and although we are part of that international body called the United Nations, we are not under them. They have no jurisdiction over us, or over our duly constituted authorities except by our volition.
Al Hussein probably thinks he is still a prince ruling over his portion of the Jordanian desert, and forgets he is a diplomat who must exercise utmost patience even when he has to deal with leaders of sovereign states whose views and language do not agree with his.
Secretary Alan Cayetano was quick to put him in his proper place, using language far more diplomatic than those Al Hussein uttered.
Secretary Alan reminded the UNHRC that their rapporteur, Ms. Victoria Tauli Corpuz was “included in the list (of persons declared as terrorists) not because of her position as Special Rapporteur but because of her alleged links with the Ilocos-Cordillera Regional Committee of the CPP-NPA, which if the High Commissioner is unaware of, is in the list of foreign terrorist organizations of both the United States and the European Union.”
So there. And being a special rapporteur of the UNCHR does not de-list her automatically from part of a foreign terrorist organization which has hobbled peace in this country for half a century.
Go back to Jordan, Mr. Al Hussein, and shout your views in the empty halls of the treasury at Petra as much as you want. You have absolutely no business judging us Filipinos.