President Rodrigo Duterte's chosen successor announced Tuesday his withdrawal from the 2022 presidential race, saying it was "not yet my time."
Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, 47, a close aide to the 76-year-old president, entered the contest for the country's highest office two days before the November 15 deadline, after previously registering for the vice presidential race.
His sudden exit narrows the field of candidates vying to replace Duterte, who is constitutionally barred from seeking a second six-year term. He is running for the Senate.
"My family doesn't want it either, so I thought maybe this is not yet my time," Go told reporters.
If Duterte wins, he would become a colleague of Go, a first-term senator who still has 3 years left on his tenure and could serve in the chamber until 2025 even if he lost in the May 9 polls next year.
Meanwhile, the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) is set to hold a series of meetings to discuss its next move after the withdrawal of Go, Malacañang said on Tuesday.
Cabinet Secretary and Acting Presidential Spokesperson Karlo Nograles was mum on details, saying it is best to wait for the PDP-Laban to issue an official statement on the matter.
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, president of his faction in PDP-Laban, which initially supported Go’s bid for vice president – with fellow Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa as the presidential candidate — said he is sure Go did it for good reasons.
He said PDP-Laban respected and supported Go, who eventually jumped to the Pederalismo ng Dugong Dakilang Samahan (PDDS), substituting for the smaller party’s original presidential bet, Grepor Belgica.
In an interview with CNN Philippines, PDDS founder Belgica said the party was meeting within the day to talk about the group’s plans and direction for the upcoming elections.
“Right now, until we sit down with our leaders and our principal, the President and Senator Bong Go, we’re not thinking about that yet,” Belgica said when asked if the party has been eyeing other candidates.
“All options are open. Whatever is best for the country, best for the party,” he added.
There will be no substitution for the withdrawal of Go from the 2022 presidential race, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said on Tuesday.
“Since it would be a voluntary withdrawal, no substitution,” Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said in a statement.
Go is required to physically appear before the Comelec to formalize his withdrawal, but since it was a holiday yesterday, Jimenez said its Law Department would receive the senator’s withdrawal today.
Go said his decision to withdraw was also to avoid causing "more problems" for Duterte, who he professed to love "more than as a father."
"I remain loyal to him, and I promise to be with him forever," Go said.
"In the past few days, I realized that my heart and my mind are contradicting my own actions."
Most analysts had given Go little chance of success in the May election, though he was the most likely candidate to protect Duterte from criminal charges in the Philippines, and an International Criminal Court investigation into his deadly drug war.
"From the very start he has launched a lukewarm campaign and it's very obvious that he was just thrust into that job by President Duterte," said Jean Franco, a political science professor at the University of the Philippines. (See full story online at manilastandard.net)
The son and namesake of former president Ferdinand Marcos has a commanding lead in the race, according to a recent survey by respected polling outfit Social Weather Stations.
Marcos Jr. was followed by incumbent Vice President and Duterte critic Leni Robredo, celebrity Manila mayor Francisco Domagoso, and boxing great Senator Manny Pacquiao.
Go's decision also comes after a tumultuous week when many of the leading presidential and vice-presidential candidates took drug tests after Duterte accused an unnamed candidate of snorting cocaine.
Go said he did not want Duterte "to be trapped" due to his old age, Go formally announced he was dropping his candidacy for president during the wreath laying ceremony at the Pinaglabanan Shrine in San Juan City for the 158th birth anniversary of Gat Andres Bonifacio, where he stood in for Duterte.
In an interview, Go said he did not want to add problems to Duterte whom he considered a father.
"I remain truthful to my promise that I will accompany him during his lifetime. Even before, that's my promise to him,” said Go, who earlier told reporters he was waiting for any sign from up – using his finger while pointing to the sky, in obvious reference to God – whether he should withdraw or not from the presidential race.
But when presidential daughter Sara filed her COC, also for VP, under the banner of Lakas-CMD, Go backed out from the race to give way to the President's daughter.
In the past few days Go noted he realized that his heart and mind were contradicting his own actions. "My body, heart and mind were indeed resisting. I am just a person who became hurt and exhausted."
"I am a simple 'probinsyano' who was given the chance to serve our people. I have no ambition to become a Presisent. I just want to be of service service,” he said, quickly switching to Tagalog for the sound: “Dahil ang bisyo ko po ay magserbisyo." Aside from not being a politician, Go said he did not come from a big or famous family. “I am not accustomed to dirty politics. Perhaps, I am just up to this point," he added.
"Having said this, I leave my fate to God and the Filipino people as I vow to do my best every day to serve selflessly and tirelessly. I am willing to make the supreme sacrifice for the good of our country, and for the sake of unity among our supporters and leaders," he said.
He reminded the presidentiables and those who want to serve the country to prioritize the welfare and interest of the Filipino.
The senator assured he and President Duterte would support those who would truly serve, “those who could continue the Duterte legacy towards a more comfortable, safe and convenient life for our children.”
He said “many times in our life, we are called upon to serve others but destiny has a way of turning things around.
"Just like the great Andres Bonifacio — the President who never was.
Bonifacio had every great opportunity to lead our country as our President after leading a revolutionary movement that started our quest for liberty. But destiny had something different for him."
Partido Reporma chairman and standard bearer Panfilo “Ping” Lacson wished Go good luck on his future endeavors as he announced he was formally withdrawing from the 2022 electoral race.
Lacson said Go had indicated his desire to pull out from the May 9 polls several times in his private tete-a-tetes with him and his running mate, Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, in between sessions.
"I only learned it now that Senator Bong Go officially withdrew, although he had indicated it for a while now. Even when we were in the lounge, he really would feel dejected, frustrated with the developments," he said.
"He was telling us, confiding in us both with the Senate President when we’re in the lounge, in our tete-a-tete there before or during session breaks, he was saying ‘I don’t know how I got here because I was already happy… Even becoming a senator, I didn’t expect that I would become a senator," he added.
Go still has three years left in his six-year Senate term. Lacson and Sotto, however, will step down from the Upper Chamber on June 30, 2022, regardless of the result of the May polls.
Meanwhile, Lacson said he and Sotto had always been consistent in their position to just focus on their own advocacy and not mind whoever else was running or withdrawing from the race.
"In regard to the May elections, we are going all the way. That's us," said Lacson.
Pacquiao, running under PROMDI, said he just heard "rumors" about Go's withdrawal.
"I don’t think anything is final or formal yet,” said Pacquiao despite a video message wherein Go stated he's withdrawing from the presidential race.
Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, chairman of the Pacquiao wing in the ruling PDP-Laban, said the boxing champ would definitely finish the electoral bout.
"And we expect to win," he added.
Duterte has been an ally of the controversial Marcos family, which had gone into exile in the United States after the patriarch's downfall in 1986, following the largely peaceful Catholic Church-backed Edsa Revolution.
That revolution was led by then Marcos' defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Constabulary chief Fidel Ramos – both now supporting the tandem of Marcos Jr. and Duterte's daughter Sara Carpio.
But recently Duterte has been publicly critical of Marcos Jr, describing him as a "weak leader… saddled with baggage".
Sara Duterte-Carpio, his daughter, had been widely expected to run for president.
But she filed her candidacy for vice president, a position which holds very little power, and formed an alliance with Marcos Jr.
Go's exit from the "tight election race" could strengthen the "political force" of Marcos Jr and Sara, said Franco.
But she doubted that Duterte would endorse Marcos Jr for his job. With AFP