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Still special: Duterte highlights Bong Go, his pet bills in SONA 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Neophyte Senator Bong Go remains the apple of President Rodrigo Duterte's eye as the Chief Executive's 4th State of the Nation Address (SONA) proves.

The former special assistant to the President got special mention in the SONA on Monday, July 22. Unlike no other lawmaker, Go's pet bills were even mentioned by Duterte, asking Congress to prioritize them.

"Additional benefits for solo parents, the assignment of health workers in all barangays, and the expansion of the Malasakit centers are what we also hope to achieve through the bills filed by the original Bong Go," said Duterte.

"Para manalo sa kampanya, 'yun ang mantra niya. Totohanin mo lang, Bong, [baka] mapahiya tayong lahat," he continued.

(Those were his mantra during the campaign, so he'd win. So, Bong, make them happen, or we might get embarrassed.)

Some of the measures Duterte promoted which Go had filed in the Senate are:

Duterte hailed Go as the "original" creator of the Malasakit Center concept. He spent a chunk of his speech talking about the P16-billion Navy frigates deal, a controversy which he claimed was Go's ticket to the Senate.

Documents showed how Go's office had intervened in the project, endorsing a complaint of one of the South Korean suppliers. A Senate hearing was held, which Go attended and which Duterte claimed gave Go the national prominence he needed to launch a senatorial bid.

Still by Duterte's side

Go was also spotted walking beside Duterte, from the time the Chief Executive touched down at the Batasang Pambansa Complex and as he entered the Plenary Hall, as he did as special assistant to the President.

SPECIAL. Senator Bong Go welcomes President Duterte as his chopper lands at the Batasang Pambansa. RTVM screenshot

SPECIAL. Senator Bong Go welcomes President Duterte as his chopper lands at the Batasang Pambansa.

RTVM screenshot

No other lawmaker had the same place of honor, confirming that Go's new role as senator won't stop him from appearing by Duterte's side.

But Go is part of a chamber that is supposed to serve as a check on executive power. His closeness with the President raises questions on how independent he'll be as a senator.

Go himself has claimed he will be independent and will "put the Filipino first." But in the same breath, he said he is convinced Duterte is "doing the right thing" for the country. 

On Monday, when the Senate held its opening session, Go said he would still assist the President if doing so wouldn't conflict with his schedule as senator. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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