Reluctant’ candidate Go drops 2022 presidential bid

In yet another turnaround, Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go announced on Tuesday, Nov. 30, his withdrawal as presidential candidate in the May 2022 elections citing his half-hearted commitment and lack of full family support for his decision to quit the race. He also wanted to spare his longtime boss, President Rodrigo Duterte, from the stress of a rigorous campaign and “dirty politics”.

Following his declaration, Commission on Elections Spokesperson James Jimenez said the Comelec’s Law Department has no authority as yet to accept the filing of withdrawal considering it was a holiday. But he added no substitution can be made since it was a voluntary withdrawal.

Go’s announcement was made after attending the commemoration of the 158th birth anniversary of revolutionary leader Andres Bonifacio in San Juan City with the President.

“In the past few days, I realized that my heart and mind are contradicting my own actions … Tao lang po ako na nasasaktan at napapagod rin po. That is why I’m withdrawing from the race,” Go said.

Likening himself to Bonifacio, whom he affectionately called the “president who never was”, Go said that he is willing to make the “supreme sacrifice for the good of our country and for the sake of unity among our supporters and leaders.”

Unang-una, hindi ko naman po ambisyon na maging pangulo. Ang hangarin ko lang po ay makapag-serbisyo sa aking kapwa Pilipino. Kahit sa anong posisyon po …,” he remarked.

With Go’s withdrawal from next year’s polls, the fractious ruling party, Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), would be without a representative to contest the top executive position presently held by its chairperson, Duterte.

Go said he never had any intention to seek the presidency, but the ruling faction of the PDP-Laban pushed him to do so. He originally filed to run for the vice presidency under the ruling party but withdrew his candidacy on Nov. 13 to become the substitute presidential candidate of their allied political party, Partido ng Dugong Dakilang Samahan (PDDS).

Ito pong pagtakbo bilang pangulo ay hindi po ako handa. Hindi ko po ito pinaghandaan. All set na po akong kandidato as vice president for 40 days, he said. “… in a span of hours or days, nilipat ka sa isang posisyon na hindi mo pinaghandaan… Marahil hindi ko pa po panahon.”

His initial withdrawal from the vice-presidential race came after Duterte’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, renounced her reelection bid to run for vice president under the Lakas-Christian Muslim and Democracts (Lakas-CMD) party. Duterte-Carpio filed her candidacy a few hours after Duterte and Go arrived at the Comelec to file his candidacy for the top post on Nov. 13, taking over for Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa.

There were rumors that Duterte had been grooming his daughter to run for president but she repeatedly denied running for a national post, and would seek a third term as local executive.

Asked if PDP-Laban already accepted his decision, the senator said he already hinted about his withdrawal and asked his party mates, supporters and the PDDS to understand his eventual decision during a meeting last week..

Several of Go’s political allies, including Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Jacinto “Jing” Paras and Butch Belgica, the national adviser of PDDS, had denied speculations that Go would withdraw after the senator reportedly expressed doubts about pushing through with his candidacy during a Nov. 24 meeting with governors in Malacañang.

The reluctant candidate made clear that Mr. Duterte understood his decision when he talked to him on Nov. 29. The senator, meanwhile, said that he would support whoever Duterte decides to back as presidential and vice presidential bets.

Handa naman po kami ni Pangulong Duterte na suportahan ang sinuman na tunay na magse-serbisyo, makakapagpatuloy at po-protekta sa Duterte legacy tungo sa mas komportable, ligtas at maginhawang buhay para sa ating mga anak,” he said.

Meanwhile, Go expressed hope that the President would push through with his candidacy for a senatorial seat.

Just like his former longtime aide, Duterte had been vacillating between running for vice president or retirement from politics in 2022. Eventually, Duterte substituted to run as senator under the PDDS on Nov. 15, the last day for withdrawal and substitution of candidates. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte goes from VP to ‘retirement’ to VP to senator)