Ex-future president Bong Go
TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag (The Freeman) - June 3, 2020 - 12:00am

For someone who cannot seem to live outside the shadow of President Duterte, it is incredible how perennial aide Bong Go completely misses the example set by his amo: That you hold out for as long as possible until the people practically beg you to run. Duterte did it in 2016. But Bong Go is not doing it for his 2022 reputed presidential run. He is sticking his neck out way too early. Which is to say he is sticking it out alone.

Philippine political history is replete with people who stuck their necks way too early, only to find the only place they stuck their necks out to was the butcher's block. Mar Roxas was the most recent example. His "Mr. Palengke" gimmick did not fly not only because a rich kid like him simply did not fit the role, but because his gimmick was the only gimmick to ridicule and tear to pieces, if for nothing else but the Filipino's lack of anything better to do.

Bong Go was doing great just being where the president was, which was everywhere. To anyone with eyes moisting at the presidency in 2022, just being where Bong Go is in the shadow of the president is already to die for. You say Bong and nobody knows who you mean. Say Go and there are just too many of them. But say Bong Go and everybody knows you mean the president's banana peel. To some, that means you are made.

Between now and 2022, Bong Go could just have coasted along. If Duterte messes up, he messes up alone. The buck stops with him. But if Bong Go messes up, he messes up not just himself, he also messes up the president. Look at what happened in the Debold Sinas case. More crucially for Bong Go, he messes up and he messes up his future.

And that is precisely what Bong Go did. He messed up his presidential run by pushing an ill-timed initiative called the Balik Probinsya program that seeks to decongest Metro Manila but which, in so doing, only ended up endangering provincial populations with coronavirus infections. The Balik Probinsya program is the exact opposite of the community quarantines that the entire Filipino population had to endure for more than two months.

In the course of the quarantine, people lost jobs, businesses lost opportnities and earnings, schools ground to a halt, freedoms were waived, travel was banned, religion was sidelined. In sum, human life was turned upside down. But people cannot complain because their lives were on the line. But then along came Bong Go, who unleashed a wave of reverse migration that endangered quarantine-compliant and thus COVID-safe communities.

Balik Probinsya is not and should not be confused with the repatriation of OFWs. OFWs came from overseas where they lost their jobs and have no homes. They have to be brought home. But Bong Go's Balik Probinsya beneficiaries, his future 2022 voters, had no compelling reason to go home until Bong Go enticed them with goodies. They were ok in the big city as they always had been until the Pied Piper came.

Nothing wrong with decongesting cities. But not in the middle of a pandemic when travel, the main cause of its rapid spread, is even banned. Many areas that have remained free of COVID by being compliant with protocols now have positive cases because of Balik Probinsya arrivals. Now Bong Go has lost the vote of these heretofore COVID-free areas. And just as Yolanda victims red-flagged Mar, so will Bong Go be blacklisted forever.

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