Palace says Duterteâs intentional absence a matter of 'style'
Composite photos show President Rodrigo Duterte sitting on a motorcycle and jogging around Malacañang. Photos were released Saturday.
(Facebook/Christopher Bong Go)

Palace says Duterte’s intentional absence a matter of 'style'

(Philstar.com) - April 15, 2021 - 6:13pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte's two-week absence from the public eye is a matter of style that Filipinos cannot change and should simply respect, his spokesperson said Thursday. 

At a press briefing Thursday afternoon, Palace spokesman Harry Roque responded to criticisms over Duterte's refusal to speak to the public amid the worsening coronavirus pandemic, saying there is nothing critics can do about it. 

The chief executive himself admitted his disappearing act was a personal and intentional decision that had nothing to do with his health. He went so far as likening himself to a child who gets more interested when challenged. 

"You can't really do anything about it if that's what the president believes," Roque said in mixed Filipino and English. 

"The more you provoke him, the more he will push back. So let's leave him be. That's his style. We all have our styles."

To recall, the president's absence at a time when coronavirus cases were skyrocketing fueled speculations about his deteriorating health.

In response, one senator posted unverified photos of the president supposedly golfing and riding a motorcycle, which in turn only drew the ire of Filipinos. 

Duterte's whereabouts that week are still unclear. The president implied that he went back to his residence in Davao City, though Roque said that he did not leave Malacañang. 

FROM INTERAKSYON: Duterte reminded of presidential duties as he shrugs off two-week public absence

Petition seeks Duterte's resignation

Earlier Thursday, a petition was filed on change.org calling for the resignation of Duterte over what the group said was his inability to properly manage the coronavirus pandemic and brewing tensions in the West Philippine Sea.  

As of this post, the petition has logged some 1,800 signatories after going viral on social media.

It was initially signed by a group of 500 medical frontliners, educators, youth leaders, religious, lawyers, civic leaders and concerned citizens under the name Filipinos for Duterte's Resignation.     

"Over one year into the pandemic, the public health crisis has deepened. We have record numbers of daily infections, positivity rates and deaths. The public health system is at breaking point. Our economy is just as bad. Too many patients are dying without getting access to critical care. Millions have lost their jobs and livelihoods due to the lockdowns and restrictions — the longest and harshest in the world yet glaringly ineffective," the petition read. 

"All these, Duterte shrugs off: 'Maliit na bagay ito. Wala tayong magawa (This is a small thing. We can't do anything about it).' That is unforgivable given the amount of resources he was allowed to dispense for this crisis."

At the same public address that was supposed to discuss his administration's pandemic response, the president found the time to attack Sen. Leila de Lima, one of his political opponents. He also raised the drug problem once more despite continuous claims from government officials that their flagship war on drugs was a success. 

To date, 904,285 coronavirus infections have been recorded in the country, 183,527 of which are classified as active cases.   This comes 394 days since the first enhanced community quarantine was hoisted in the Philippines, good for the longest lockdown in the world. 

"Where is the President? There is no leadership ensuring our protection and safety, both from the virus, the economic crunch and attacks on our sovereignty. Instead, the President remains obsessed with the drug war, attacking his critics and ordering the deaths of those he considers his enemies," the petition also said. 

"We deserve and demand better. Our country is on the brink of disaster. At the time the nation needs him most, Duterte is a total failure as a leader. He must step down."

Franco Luna 

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