President Rodrigo Duterte told his detractors to “pray harder” if they wanted him to die early, in his first public appearance in a fortnight on Monday amid swirling rumors of his ill health and insinuations he could not lead the country in its latest coronavirus crisis. The President said he intended to retreat from the public eye “parang bata (like a kid playing hide and seek)” to go home to his native Davao City and sign several government documents.
He also assured that he was healthy enough to swing a golf club and ride motorcycles as shown in photos released by Senator Christopher Go, his longtime aide, over the weekend.
Malacañang on Monday assured the public that President Rodrigo Duterte is fit and healthy and there is no need to issue a medical bulletin for the Chief Executive because he is not sick.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque made the statement as speculation about his health continues to circulate on social media.
However, at least 65 percent of Filipinos believe Duterte’s health is a public matter and that they should be kept informed about this, a survey from the Social Weather Stations (SWS) said.
In contrast, 32 percent said they need not be informed of everything about this. The President, however, reiterated that he is “active” yet starts his day “late in the day.”
“The people must know that I am a resident of Davao City. I never pretended to be a resident of Sampaloc or Sta. Ana. If I want to go home there (Davao City) on a reasonable basis, I can because it is my home,” he said.
“I can swing a golf club and ride a motor (cycle) because I still can.
The problem is you should look into the time I enjoy my hobbies. It’s in the evening, early morning. To ride at 2 o’clock in the morning, that is not taking away from people’s time,” Duterte said.
He also blasted Senator Leila de Lima, one of Duterte’s top critics who is in jail, saying he got enough votes, “a substantial one, to make me a credible President.”
“Tatagal kaya ako dito sa pwesto na ito kung inutil ako? (Would I last in this position if I were inutile?) Would the military allow me to govern?” he said, while telling De Lima to “look into your own backyard.”
The President was referring to the senator’s imprisonment on drug charges, which De Lima and human rights groups believe were fabricated to silence her for investigating the administration’s bloody war on illegal drugs.
The President’s lack of public appearances last week triggered talks of Duterte’s deteriorating health, which was quickly denied by the Palace.
Roque also assured the public that the President is on top of the situation amid the rise of COVID-19 infections in the country.
Duterte’s public address is usually held on Mondays, but his expected address on April 5 was moved to April 7. It was later canceled, fueling speculations about the President’s health and the resurgence of the social media hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo (Where is the President?).
Roque explained that the weekly public address was canceled because some members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) had tested positive for COVID-19.
Duterte’s last public appearance before last night was on March 29 in a meeting with the government’s pandemic task force.
The SWS September 17-20, 2020 National Mobile Phone Survey was a probability-based survey conducted using mobile phone and computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) of 1,249 adult Filipinos (18 years old and above) nationwide.
About 309 were interviewed in Metro Manila, 328 in Balance Luzon, 300 in the Visayas, and 312 in Mindanao, with a sampling error margin of ±3% for national percentages, ±6% for Metro Manila, ±5% for Balance Luzon, ±6% for the Visayas, and ±6% for Mindanao.
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