With countless Filipinos looking for President Rodrigo Duterte as the nation deals with another powerful typhoon, the chief executive said today that he really wants to see the public — it’s just that his advisers are stopping him from doing so.
In a televised address delivered today, Duterte called out his critics who have accused him of sleeping on the job while Typhoon Vamco is battering many parts of the country. He said that he had been busy attending the virtual 37th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit.
“There are those who say that we’re not doing anything or we’re sleeping [on the job], we hardly couldn’t sleep here. As I talked to you now, I just delivered the ASEAN Philippine message. I am attending a summit of the ASEAN,” he said in English and Filipino.
“My problem is, those who are guarding me [are forbidding me from going out]. The PSG (Presidential Security Group), the doctors, they said I couldn’t leave. I said, ‘I want to show myself to the people,'” he said.
However, his security detail told the president that they had to keep him safe from the elements. Duterte then decided that Vice President Leni Robredo, with whom he doesn’t have the warmest of relationships, should be left to do the responsibility of attending to Vamco’s victims.
“I said, ‘Nevermind, anyway there’s the vice president. That’s why there is someone in that position.’ They said, ‘There are a lot of officials outside, but there is only one president,” he said.
He added, somewhat jokingly, “I really want to go out; I want to swim. I haven’t swum for a long time. But these soldiers wouldn’t allow me.”
Using the hashtag #NasaanangPangulo (“Where is the president?”), incensed Filipinos have been looking for Duterte. Meanwhile, others have used the hashtag #OustDuterteNow to display their anger at what they perceive as the national government’s lack of preparation for the typhoon. Just this morning, residents of Rizal and Marikina City have been calling for the government to rescue them after floodwaters have inundated their homes.
Meanwhile, the president assured the public that Filipinos’ “safety” remains his top priority and that all resources are ready to be deployed.
“As president, I guarantee you that your government will do its best to provide assistance in the form of shelter, relief goods, financial aid, and post-disaster counseling. Rest assured that the government will not leave anybody behind. We will get through this crisis. I assure you. As one nation, let’s hold each other, my countrymen and help each other,” the chief executive said.
Duterte even boasted that the government has new “assets” that can be used to rescue flood victims.
“The Coastguard, they can use it on the water, and the fast vessels with the Navy, and our Airforce, we have a lot of helicopters. [But] as long as the weather is still whirling, they cannot work, they cannot fly. But all of these, all the soldiers have already been deployed,” he explained.
This article, ‘I Wanna Swim’: Duterte says doctors, security forbid him from visiting typhoon-ravaged Pinoys, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company.