They’re not from me, they’re from my friends.
This is basically how Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go explained the presence of recently spotted tarpaulins, smart phones, T-shirts and relief goods bearing his name and illustrated versions of him. The images of the merchandise recently went around social media amid speculations that Go, the trusty aide of the president, is set to run for senator next year.
Hindi ka talaga tatakbo SAP Go? Daming pundddssss LOL https://t.co/eYDuno1XED
— Kristina (@kristinamisajon) July 1, 2018
Yet Go insists he is not considering the rumored candidacy, having declined offers to run under a Rodrigo Duterte-backed slate.
Among the photographed merchandise going around social media was a customized Cherry Mobile Desire R6 Plus smartphone labelled “Bong Go na Tayo.” On the box are caricatures of Go and Duterte holding up their fists—a political gestured identified with Duterte’s campaign since 2015.
Critics who saw the images or the actual Bong Go merchandise and banners questioned the funding used to manufacture, distribute and customize them.
Garapalan na yung ginagawang pangangampanya ni Bong Go kahit wala pa namang campaign period. May pa cellphone, tshirt, tarpaulin and all. San galing funds na ginamit jan?
— J E L Y N (@jelynsnfrncsc) July 10, 2018
The pre-campaign imagery may have come from what appears to be a page created for the presidential aid on Facebook called “Go na Tayo.”
Bong Go ‘relief goods’ alongside DSWD’s
Last week, Go was criticized for relief goods given to hundreds of fire victims at Sampaloc in Manila designed with “Ready Set Go” tags. This is the same name of an event in March staged to urge Go to join the senatorial race in 2019. It was attended by Duterte’s political allies.
The “Go” items were seen beside those from the Department of Social Welfare and Development. The DSWD later on clarified that its personnel did not distribute the Bong Go-labeled goods themselves. The secretary did it in person “upon the instruction” of President Duterte.
From friends and supporters
Go confirmed that Duterte was the one who sent him to give away the relief goods. He also added that some of the donations he handed out came from his friends in the private sector:
“May kaibigan po ako na pribado, mga foundation na nagbigay rin ng kanilang goods na naka-color green saka ako naman yung mga sapatos sa programa ko, ‘Sapatos ni SAP, Tsinelas ang Ka-Swap’, mga nagdo-donate ng sapatos sa mga nasunugan ay nakapatong po doon.”
In a separate interview, Go denied being involved in the production of any paraphernalia, which include customized gadgets, bearing his name and implied that his supporters may have a hand in such distribution.
“Para po sa mga nagpapamigay nito, salamat po sa pagtulong at pagsuporta pero kung puwede, huwag niyo na po ilagay ang pangalan at mukha ko,” the projected senatorial candidate said.
In May, Go’s touring around Metro Manila had also drawn flak for receiving national coverage by state-run communication bodies, such as the People’s Television Network and the Presidential Communications Operations Office.