MANILA - Cheers filled a covered court in Sta. Ana, Manila Thursday as Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go and two actors, clad in the lawmaker's 2019 campaign shirts, sang songs and handed out shoes and grocery packs to victims of a recent fire.
Though the scene mirrored a campaign sortie, save for the lack of a makeshift stage decorated with campaign streamers, Go said this was simply his brand of public service.
"Anong early campaigning pinag-uusapan? Two months, three months pa lang after election, early campaigning? Pangangampaniya ba ang pagseserbisyo sa tao?" Go told reporters when asked if he was posturing early for the 2022 presidential elections.
(Why are we talking about early campaigning? It has just been two months, three months after the election and we're already campaigning? Is public service considered as campaigning?)
Go, the President's former aide and now neophyte senator, categorically said he does not plan to wage a campaign to succeed President Rodrigo Duterte, his decades-long boss, after he steps down from the presidency in 2022.
"Wala akong ambisyon maging presidente... Pagkatapos nito [term], uuwi na kami ng Davao," he said.
(I don't have an ambition to become President... After this, we'll come back home to Davao," he said of his and the President's hometown.
"Wala akong interes tumakbo sa kahit anong posisyon... Willing ako maging campaign manager nang kung sino mang gusto tumakbong presidente basta ipagpapatuloy niya yung nasimulan ni Pangulong Duterte," he said.
(I don't have any interest to run for any position... I am willing to be campaign manager of whoever wants to run for president as long as he would continue what President Duterte has begun.)
Go said his daily rounds in evacuation centers across the country was a fulfilment of his campaign promise to keep his feet planted in the grassroots despite ascending to a national office.
"Nangako po ako sa kapwa Pilipino natin nung wala pang eleksyon na babalikan ko sila... Dinadagdagan ko lang ng serbisyo na hindi naman binibigay ng iba, 'yung bumababa sa tao," he said.
(I promised my fellow Filipinos before the elections that I will be back with them... I just add to the service that others can't give, the kind that reaches the people.)
The grocery bags and shoes he gives away to families who lost their homes to fires or floods are donations from friends, Go said without naming his sponsors.
ABS-CBN News has requested for Go's budget in his nationwide program to help calamity victims. His office has yet to send the data.
"Hindi ko matiis na nakaupo lang diyan sa Senado habang 'yung mga kababayan natin dito nagmamakaawa, humihingi ng tulong," he said, noting that he has also filed bills that would modernize the fire department to prevent fire incidents.
(I cannot just sit in the Senate while our people are pleading, asking for help.)
Politics and star power
In the Philippines, it is usual for celebrities to lend their star power to politicians during campaigns.
Celebrities help improve a candidate's name recall, political analyst Ramon Casiple said in an earlier interview.
"Obviously those groups identified through the media have greater chances to get the votes. They managed to leverage their name into votes," he said.
Go said this is not his intention when he invites action stars and staunch Duterte supporters Phillip Salvador and Robin Padilla to join his outreach programs.
"Dinala ko 'yung mga artista dito [kasi] gusto ko pong pasayahin ang ating mga kababayan. Gusto ko mag-iwan ng konting ngiti sa kanilang mga mukha sa panahon ng kanilang pagdadalamhati," he said.
(I brought the actors here because I want to make the people happy. I want to leave them with a bit of a smile on their faces in the midst of their grief.)