Duterte ‘saddened’ by death of doctors in COVID-19 fight, promises support for ‘vulnerable groups’

As the number of COVID-19 cases increases each day, President Rodrigo Duterte last night assured the Philippines that his government is working to safeguard each person’s health, while expressing sadness over the death of healthcare professionals.

The notoriously unfiltered chief executive appeared to stick to the script in the somber televised address, which represented a marked departure from his early messaging on the virus that sought to play down the threat.

“First, let me reiterate my sincerest gratitude to all our courageous frontliners in this war, especially our healthcare workers — our doctors, nurses, medical technologists, and other allied health professionals,” he said in English and Filipino.

“Thank you very much. You can be assured of the government’s support.”

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Referring to the deaths of several doctors from COVID-19, Duterte added: “I am saddened by the news that the virus has claimed the lives of our doctors along the way. They are all heroes, and not only that, I really admire them. I rarely praise people, but when it comes to our doctors, our health workers who died, I salute you. You are no longer in this world, but I hold you in high regard.”

Duterte also thanked the Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging and Infectious Diseases, the government agency in charge of the anti-COVID-19 campaign, as well as the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, and other frontliners who are keeping the country running, including “those manning various government agencies, groceries, banks, food establishments, and delivery services, among others.”

“To the gracious members of the private sector who are foregoing profit to alleviate the suffering of our people, to the valiant volunteers who are bravely supplementing our frontiers, [and] to the noble civil society organizations who are working tirelessly in calling for donations and performing charity work — thank you very much for your kindness, compassion and generosity,” he added.

Read: ‘Why do you have to be hysterical?’: Duterte slams rising xenophobia, plays down gravity of Wuhan virus epidemic

He also thanked the House of Representatives and the Senate for approving bills granting him emergency powers in a bid to solve the health crisis. He vowed that the government is working to protect Filipinos from the virus.

“To the Filipino people, rest assured that the government is working hand in hand to safeguard your health, safety, and well-being in the face of [the] threat posed by COVID-19,” he said. “We will address all the different issues brought about by this pandemic as well as the protection of all our people, especially those who are serving in the frontlines. Supplies of food, water, and other essentials will be provided to you throughout this ordeal. Financial assistance will also be extended to [people living in] the margins and to the vulnerable groups.”

Just last month Duterte was still playing down the gravity of COVID-19’s impact, even joking that he was going to “slap” the virus.

“Although it has affected a lot of countries, one or two [patients] in any country is not really that fearsome,” he said in February, before the outbreak in the Philippines began to pick up steam.

As of yesterday afternoon, the Philippines had recorded 552 COVID-19 cases, with 35 deaths and 20 recoveries. The entire island Luzon, home to more than 54 million people, has been placed on lockdown to control its spread, with the quarantine expected to end on April 13.


This article, Duterte ‘saddened’ by death of doctors in COVID-19 fight, promises support for ‘vulnerable groups’, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!