MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte has to limit his public engagements because of the spike in the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) and the reimposition of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in National Capital Region Plus (NCR Plus), Malacañang said on Friday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque issued the statement after Duterte failed to attend this year’s commemoration ceremony for Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) at the Mr. Samat National Shrine in Pilar, Bataan.
“The President’s critics are asking why President Rodrigo Duterte has no public event to commemorate Araw ng Kagitingan. Lest they forget, we are under community quarantine, where gatherings are not encouraged,” Roque said.
The hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo (Where is the President) trended again on Twitter.
Duterte’s last activities were held on March 29 when he delivered a public address and witnessed the arrival of one million Covid-19 vaccine doses procured from China’s Sinovac Biotech.
Duterte was supposed to deliver his weekly talk to the nation on Wednesday, but decided to postpone it after many members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) contracted Covid-19.
Roque said Duterte’s safety could not be compromised, considering that Covid-19 infections continue to rise.
“Active cases of Covid-19 remain high and we have to ensure not only the safety of the President but also the physical well-being of the staff and the security in charge of the coordination and preparation of the presidential engagement or event,” he said.
Despite his failure to go to Bataan, Duterte’s video message was played during the commemoration of the 79th Araw ng Kagitingan.
Not a Cabinet meeting
In a separate statement, Roque also clarified that the recent virtual meeting among select members of the Cabinet was not a Cabinet meeting.
Roque made the clarification after several news outlets reported that Duterte also missed the Cabinet meeting held Thursday.
“Yesterday’s meeting was not a Cabinet meeting. As mentioned, it was a zoom meeting attended by some Department Secretaries,” he said, adding that the meeting was presided by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.
He said the meeting was “informal but productive”.
On Wednesday, PSG commander Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante III assured the public that Duterte is “safe” and “in good health.”
Senator Christopher Lawrence Go also released several photos of Duterte to dispel rumors about Duterte’s health condition.
Critics, however, have claimed that Duterte’s recent photos are edited.
Roque merely shrugged off critics’ claim.
“As to claims that the recent photos of President Duterte are photoshopped, those who made noise on the matter are the usual detractors of the Chief Executive who see nothing good in what he does. Let them be,” he said.
Maharlika TV, citing “reliable sources,” claimed in a now-deleted post that Duterte suffered a “mild heart attack.”
Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar on Wednesday dismissed as “fake news” Maharlika TV’s report. (PNA)