Photo by Aika Rey/Rappler
Tough-talking, social media-savvy Cebu City Mayor Tommy Osmeña's apparent endorsement of senatorial candidate and Duterte aide Bong Go raised some eyebrows in his turf.
But Osmeña was quick to defend his support for the controversial "Special Assistant to the President." He denied it was a concession to President Rodrigo Duterte, after the Chief Executive said he would "slap" Osmeña for spreading "false stories" about him and acting like he "owns Cebu."
"Absolutely NO!" he told Rappler on Monday, April 1, when asked if his endorsement was really a way to appease Duterte.
Osmeña explained why he is supporting Go's candidacy.
"We have many common friends here in Cebu and Davao [who] nag me to support [Go] and that was a plus factor," he said.
The Cebu local chief also said his ties with Go go all the way back from before Duterte even became president. It was also a time when Go was nothing more than a mayor's assistant. Go, recalled Osmeña, would call him up on his birthday.
"I have personally known Bong long before his boss became president. He has done little errands for me and I don't forget," Osmeña told Rappler.
Apparently, not even a President's curse-laden rants about him will make Osmeña forget.
"My differences with the administration don't get in the way," he said.
He admitted that he met with Duterte before the start of the national campaign season but denied that any discussion on Go's candidacy took place.
"Bong was there but we did not discuss Bong's candidacy then for even two seconds," he said.
So far, Duterte is yet to revive his verbal tirade against Osmeña.
When Osmeña publicly endorsed Go during his local party Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan's proclamation rally last Saturday, March 30, Go was not even present. He instead sent comedian Ai-Ai delas Alas as his representative.
Osmeña's endorsement came in the form of including Go in the list of senatorial candidates his party is supporting. The rally organizers allowed Dela Alas to speak on stage and allowed the playing of a video about Go.
The week before, Sara Duterte's Hugpong ng Pagbabago senatorial slate, to which Go belongs, also sought to conquer Cebu, the country's most vote-rich province.
Interestingly, as Go was missing at Osmeña's rally, he was also absent in HNP's rally in Cebu City. That rally was hosted by Osmeña's rival for the mayoral post, his vice mayor Edgar Labella. Labella is a member of President Duterte's political party, PDP-Laban.
Go was present at only one out of HNP's 3 Cebu rallies – the one in Danao which was hosted by Red Duterte, a relative seeking a board member post in the town. – Rappler.com
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 email@example.com.