Photo by Rhaydz Barcia/Rappler
(UPDATED) In events where the Philippine chief executive could not be physically present, he often sends a video message to be played during the program, or a representative, usually a Cabinet official, to read his speech. That is, if he was expected to be there to begin with.
So it came as a surprise to many to hear a presidential adviser reading the speech of someone other than President Rodrigo Duterte at the government-organized Regional Convention for Federalism in Legazpi City on Friday, July 6. The official – whose name was not on the program – also had a video presentation played before thousands of participants, many of whom arrived in chartered buses from all over Albay.
The "surprise" guest at the convention held in the Albay Astrodome was none other than Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go, whose pre-campaign ads on television and radio stations have been airing in Bicol for more than two weeks now.
Presidential Adviser for Political Affairs Francis Tolentino, the keynote speaker as indicated in the program, read Go's speech after he delivered his own remarks. Both are said to be gunning for a Senate post in 2019.
“Let us all unite until federalism becomes the law of the land. Our fight for federalism is the battle of our time,” Go said in his speech delivered by Tolentino.
Interior Assistant Secretary Jonathan Malaya clarified to Rappler on Monday, July 9, that Go was not a surprise guest at the event. He said the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) had tapped Go to be the convention's keynote speaker "but because of a last-minute conflict with the President’s schedule (he usually accompanies the President), he requested Secretary Francis Tolentino to represent him in the said Convention."
"Please note that Secretary Tolentino was already scheduled to be in Legazpi on that date because of the distribution of LTO license plates and other public activities," Malaya said.
He added that Go's name was no longer included in the final program "but it is his right to send someone to read his speech because Secretary Tolentino was simply representing him." Malaya added that in his opening remarks at the convention, he had already mentioned that Tolentino was there to represent Go.
Official government programs usually list the name of the original keynote speaker, and then note the corresponding representative or proxy. Had this been done, would it have stopped people in the audience from wondering why they were suddenly shown Go's video presentation which included a slideshow of his photos with President Rodrigo Duterte in presidential sorties?
Legazpi City was the third destination of the federalism roadshow of the DILG. An estimated 5,000 people attended the afternoon session on Friday. Aside from local officials and lawmakers, the convention was also attended by public school teachers, students, and members of the academe and the business sector.
The convention featured administration resource persons who took turns lauding the Duterte administration and the importance of shifting to federalism. There was an open forum during the morning session where 4 members of the Consultative Committee (Con-Com) presented the salient features of the Con-Com's draft constitution, followed by a two-hour question-and-answer portion particitipated in by members of the audience that included local officials, business leaders, and community organizers.
Despite the presentations on federalism and the time set aside for questions from the public on the proposed shift earlier that day, many left with questions still unanswered. Some members of the audience interviewed by Rappler said they did not even know the subject of the convention, and that they were only required to attend it to fill up the venue.
Did the participants leave the Albay Astrodome more knowledgeable or enlightened about the key administration plan? And Go? Perhaps the next Social Weather Stations surveys on federalism and senatorial aspirants can provide the answer. (READ: Less than half of Filipinos want federalism – SWS) – Rhaydz Barcia/Rappler.com