‘Volun-told’ philstar.com

When dealing with high ranking government officials, I’ve gotten used to the filters and protocols where you first go through executive assistants, a chief of staff or at the very least a close-in security who calls you to say that Secretary so and so would like to speak with you. In all my life the only high ranking government official I ever remember making a direct call was someone who called my father Louie Beltran on the landline. I was a pre-teen back then and when the phone rang the caller simply said “Hello may I speak with Louie please.” Given my training I automatically inquired: Who’s calling please?” The man on the other side answered matter of factly, “The President.” I responded by asking: the President of what company sir?

Last Monday I received a somewhat similar phone call but this time from someone I only met very briefly almost ten years ago and have never had a chance to speak with or be familiar with.

No it was not President Duterte calling. The caller was someone I’ve heard from TV coverage and radio interviews and certainly sounded like “Him,” but I could not bet my life with certainty that the person calling me was actually who he claimed to be. It could have been a prank for all I know but like they say: “If it walks like a duck” – “Quacks like a duck – then it must be a duck.” Pardon the reference but what do you do when someone calls and apologetically inquires if it’s me on the line and very politely introduces himself as Bong Go? Not Secretary Bong Go, not “Special Assistant to the President” Christopher Lawrence Go, just Bong Go!

It was quite refreshing that someone of his stature skips protocol and makes the call himself and even more impressive that he would take time off from his excessively busy schedule to share a few points regarding my last article where I commented that Bong Go stood the risk of getting over exposed or peaking too early and losing in the 2019 Senatorial elections because of his over eager supporters. Secretary Bong Go for the nth time reiterated that all the promotional materials and photos being put up all over the country were largely “unauthorized” and in many instances were independently put up by local politicians trying to give the Duterte administration the impression that “they,” the local officials were supporters of PRRD and Sec. Bong Go. The strategy behind such efforts are aligned with the hopes that President Duterte and his allies would not interfere or field a candidate to go against the LGU officials currently in power in said areas. Others do it in the hopes of being recognized and rewarded with development projects.

“Bong Go” also emphasized that if he files his candidacy, it would simply be because the President asks him to do so, because “he” – Bong Go, was not fully convinced of the idea of running for senator in 2019. In effect Bong Go will become the first candidate of the Duterte administration to be “VOLUNTOLD” as in “Volunteered” as a candidate and “told” to run by President Duterte. I shared with Secretary Bong Go, that I have also been invited to run for public office in the past in spite of the fact that I never aspired for such and never considered my self as a winnable candidate. I then advised Secretary Bong Go that whatever happens, even if it is the President of the Philippines volunteering him and telling him to run, Bong Go the man must first go before God and seek his word, his will, and his confirmation. Knowing that you are doing what God wants, makes it a lot easier to say no to the most powerful man in the country, or gives you strength to walk toward a mission you did not plan to sign up for. Like the saying goes: “God does not call the qualified; he qualifies the called.”

I did advised the good Secretary to consider making himself better known to a wider audience as well as the media since most of us don’t really know much about his expertise, passion or possible legislative agenda. It was then that Bong Go shared his determination to put up as many “Malasakit Centers” all over the Philippines. Those centers function largely as a one-stop shop/assistance center where patients and indigents going to government hospitals can seek help in facilitating their requests for assistance from PhilHealth, DSWD and PCSO. For the more well off citizens of Metro Manila such a project or advocacy might look like political gimmickry, but outside Imperial Manila millions of Filipinos all the way to middle class are largely ignorant of what’s available from government and its many health facilities.

While I can appreciate the utility of Malasakit Centers, I sincerely believe that people in such high position and influence like Secretary Bong Go ought to enlarge his vision and extend the territory of his dream. I for one would push for more specialists hospitals and work toward the establishment of high level specialist hospitals such as the Heart Center, the National Kidney and Organ Transplant Institute, The Lung Center, Philippine Children’s Medical Center and National Orthopedic Hospital in the Visayas and for Mindanao. That way people don’t have to sell everything just to go to Manila for serious medical treatments and procedures.