My mentor and the father of our nation

My mentor and the father of our nation

(The Philippine Star) - March 28, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — As his aide and executive assistant in Davao City, then as Special Assistant to the President in Malacañang, I have known President Rodrigo Duterte to be the person who possesses a great source of wisdom and knowledge and who serves as an example in my life. In the two decades that we were together, the President has always been committed to his work of uplifting the lives of his people by ensuring that they are well taken care of, especially during crisis situations.

An example of this is the President’s resolve to visit fellow Davaoeños and Filipinos struck by fire and natural disasters when he was still the Mayor of Davao City. Being his executive assistant back then, I accompanied him during those visits to ensure that the provision of aid to our fellow Filipinos was carried out seamlessly and effectively.

In all these times, I would study and observe how President Duterte relates, empathizes and works with our people. His hands-on, personal approach to public service makes people love and trust him. That is why, as a form of homage to the President, I have vowed to keep this practice as I continue my career in public service, but this time, on a national scale and as a legislator. In fact, right after my proclamation as a Senator, I immediately proceeded to help fire victims in Metro Manila.

After all, there is more to being a legislator than just legislation. My duty as a Senator also entails constituency services and representation. President Duterte also understands this. That is why we go around the country to listen to ordinary Filipinos, to find ways to address their concerns, and to provide solutions to their everyday struggles.

Even during the lockdown, our offices worked in tandem to extend assistance to families affected by fires or natural disasters, while adhering to strict health protocols and government guidelines. We did not stop serving the people because we believe that this is the time when our fellow Filipinos need us the most.

Being with the President for more than twenty years, I was also given the opportunity to accompany him as he fulfilled his duties throughout the country. This allowed me to better understand— and witness firsthand—not only the intricacies of governance but also the most effective way in addressing the pressing needs of the Filipino people. Such experiences helped form my own people-centered, service-oriented legislative agenda in the Senate.

With our experiences in Davao City and during the first half of his term as President, I understood the gargantuan need for us to institutionalize a more effective and universal health care system in the country. These experiences with the President also fueled my drive to push for health-related measures, such as the Malasakit Centers Act of 2019, which now ensure that our people have convenient access to crucial health services, especially the poor and the disadvantaged.

To address the ongoing public health concerns caused by the pandemic, I have also sponsored several local hospital bills seeking to upgrade and augment the bed capacity of several public hospitals nationwide. I likewise filed several bills that seek to better prepare the country for future pandemics and enhance the country’s health care system in terms of disease surveillance and control.

I believe President Duterte’s resolve, wisdom and compassion are instrumental in allowing us to weather the present storm that is the COVID-19 pandemic. His leadership allowed the government to successfully deliver services on various aspects in our pandemic response. While they did not always turn out perfectly and were always fraught with various challenges, we continued to survive and to keep on fighting for the welfare of our people and the betterment of our country.

Despite the privilege of working alongside President Duterte, it is not always easy. Due to his many accomplishments throughout his political career, it gives us—those who work for and with him—the additional responsibility of protecting, preserving, and pursuing his legacy. This is why when I was thrust into an elected position of serving the nation, I was also expected to make sure that the President succeeds in his mission to bring real and lasting change in our country.

A few years ago, running for any political office was far from my mind. But being with President Duterte made me realize how much more I could contribute in uplifting the lives of Filipinos if I were to serve with a mandate from the people. Working with President Duterte made me discover my purpose, and it is one that I shall vow to fulfill throughout my life, whether I hold a public office or not.

As we celebrate President Duterte’s birthday today—the person who serves not only as a mentor but also as a father to me—I encourage the public to remain supportive of his leadership. Like many of us, he only wants what is best for the country.

Just like what the President, or ‘Tatay Digong’ as we fondly call him, would always say: “do what is right... kapag inuna mo ang kapakanan ng mga Pilipino, hinding hindi ka magkakamali.”

Unconventional leaders like President Duterte see things differently and are not afraid to change the traditional ways of doing things and challenge the status quo. Leaders like him do not come quite as often. In this period of massive change for the world, we have the opportunity to transform and reinvent our country and with him at the helm, I am confident that we will become a more enlightened nation better capable of overcoming challenges that would test our strength as one people. — Christopher Lawrence “Bong” T. Go

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