A photobomber in Duterte campaign
He appears in almost every picture of presidential aspirant Rodrigo Duterte. Editors cropping photos in newsrooms have dubbed him the national photobomber.
But who is Christopher Lawrence Go, more popularly known as “Bong Go,” and what role does he play in the life of Mayor Duterte?
Go, who took up management at De La Salle University before becoming Duterte’s aide in 1998, described himself as the mayor’s all-around “utility” man, managing Duterte’s personal and political affairs.
Nothing happens in the household of the Davao City mayor that Go does not know about—from the purchase of liquefied petroleum gas for the kitchen to the purchase of Duterte’s dental floss.
In fact, during this interview in a restaurant in Davao City, Go received a text message informing him that the kinilaw had run out in the mayor’s dinner somewhere.
At City Hall, all kinds of requests and appointments go through him and Go has to sort them out, bringing only the most important and those requiring tough decision-making skills to the city’s chief executive.
Most routine requests—about 70 percent involve those from the sick, the dying and those requiring financial aid—Go delegates to the person in charge of the matter.
“I want all people to have access to him (Duterte), but there are just too many of them, that’s why, I need to screen them to allow the mayor to focus on the most important things,” Go said.
Go remained largely in the background for most of Duterte’s stint as mayor. But Go was suddenly thrust into the limelight in October as the press and the public hounded the mayor, the reluctant presidential candidate, on the eve of the Commission on Elections deadline for the filing of certificates of candidacy.
While Duterte disappeared from the eyes of the public, Go found himself in front of television cameras, explaining the mayor’s position.
Go said he never expected to work for someone in politics. “It was not intentional,” he said. He got the job by chance when the mayor’s former aide passed away.
Go has stuck with the mayor through the most difficult times and has survived at least six election seasons.
Go’s grandfather, August Tesoro, was very close to Duterte. Tesoro was the son of the man who founded what is now Davao’s largest printing press. He was one of the principal sponsors in the wedding of Duterte and his first wife, Elizabeth Zimmerman.
“They were close friends,” Go said of Duterte and his late grandfather.
Go said he knew the mayor so well that sometimes he could read what was on Duterte’s mind.
Describing Duterte as “soft-hearted,” Go said, “He doesn’t want to hear people being oppressed, victimized.”
Go’s job requires alertness, careful planning and quick thinking. He goes to bed late at night after making arrangements for the following day and ensuring that everything is set up properly. Sometimes in his exhaustion, he dreams about his work as he sleeps.
“Sometimes, I wake up thinking, was it just a dream or is it happening already?” said Go, who claims he is a perfectionist.
“I don’t want to make mistakes because, as manager, I take full responsibility for everything that happens under my supervision. When my staff commits mistakes, I take responsibility and apologize to the mayor. That’s why I’m always careful,” he said.
“I know what he wants. And I don’t do what he does not like. Sometimes, I can read his mind, that I’ve already done something he wants even before he talks about it,” Go said.
Go said he had to take notes carefully of commitments made by the mayor during meetings, as the people expected the mayor to deliver on his promises.
Despite the critical role he plays in Duterte’s life, Go does not consider himself the “little mayor.” He also does not think of going into politics himself.
“I consider myself the mayor’s all-around utility man,” Go said. He said he was happy to serve the man who served his people.
“Whatever he has done for the city and the country, I consider myself a part of it by serving him,” Go said.
As sortie manager, he managed Duterte’s time in the campaign so the mayor could reach as many people and as many places as possible. Sometimes, in Go’s eagerness to reach more places and more people, the 70-year-old candidate would complain.
“What are you doing with my schedule, Bong? You’re comparing me to yourself, who is still in your 30s,” he recalled the mayor as saying when the schedule became too hectic.
“Before, we went around 182 barangays in Davao, now we are going to the provinces in the Philippine archipelago. It’s the same type of campaigning, only bigger,” he said.
As the campaign period neared its end and attacks against Duterte got worse, Go was able to sleep only three to four hours at night. “Sometimes, we can manage only naps in the plane,” he said.
Go said he had gotten used to receiving over 2,000 text messages a day, compared to 500 to 1,000 when Duterte was mayor.
He believes accusations by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV about Duterte’s bank accounts will not prosper. “I know the mayor. I have been with him for the longest time. I know the money never existed,” he said.
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