Malacañang power vacuum looms as 2019 candidacy filing nears

Pia Ranada
Malacañang power vacuum looms as 2019 candidacy filing nears
At least 3 Palace officials, including presidential aide Bong Go, are reportedly running for senator in 2019. If they file COCs early October, they'll be resigning from their posts.

At least 3 Malacañang officials, two of them with the rank of secretary, who reportedly have plans to run in the 2019 elections may soon have to resign from their posts, pointing to a possible power vacuum in the Palace.

These 3 officials – Special Assistant to the President Bong Go, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, and Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Francis Tolentino – are said to have plans to run for senator in 2019.

They’ll have to make up their minds soon as the period for filing of certificates of candidacy is from October 1 to 5 – less than a month from now.

If these 3 officials end up filing their COCs, they would have to resign from their Malacañang posts, positions that have given them unparalleled access to President Rodrigo Duterte.

Roque himself spoke of this possibility on Monday, September 10, during a Palace news briefing. 

“All those who will submit their candidacies will be deemed resigned from their post so there will be vacancies if ever,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Asked if Duterte has already chosen people to fill in these important posts, Roque said, “I don’t know who will file their candidacy for sure and I dont know who is being considered to replace them.”

If Go, Roque, and Tolentino do decide to run for office, Duterte would be losing 3 top officials he’s been working closely with in Malacañang.

The biggest loss would be Go who has been his executive assistant for 20 years, or since 1998, when he was still a congressman. (READ: The man they call Bong Go)

Duterte relies on Go to directly call up Cabinet members or other officials when he has orders or when he’s following up with issues.

Go has the first say on the President’s schedule, what appointments he’ll keep, who he will meet. 

Just last Friday, Duterte announced Go wants to run for senator. Go again denied this, saying he was “not interested” in a Senate seat. At the same time he said he would leave everything up to the President’s “wisdom”. (READ: Do Bong Go’s billboards, donations violate government ethics code?)

Roque has deflected questions about his possible Senate run by saying he is focused on his job as Duterte’s spokesman.

But there’s another Malacañang official who reportedly has plans of running next year. It’s been an “open secret” among Palace insiders for months that Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr is considering running for Bohol governor.

But Evasco has repeatedly denied this when asked by Rappler.

“I am not running for governor of Bohol, period,” he said.

Even officials inside the Palace are on their toes for an impending power vacuum, with some even asking around discreetly who would take Go’s or Evasco’s posts.

Some names that have been floated for the position of Cabinet secretary are National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr, Senator Francis Escudero, and Tolentino. –

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at