Duterte skips his weekly public address

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 7) — President Rodrigo Duterte will not be holding his regular "Talk to the People" address this week, his spokesperson Harry Roque said on Wednesday.

The President did not speak to the public on Monday after Roque told a press briefing earlier that day that the scheduled address had been moved to Wednesday.

In his latest statement to reporters, however, Roque said the President's address may not happen until next week. He added the rescheduling was made "in light of the rising number of active COVID-19 cases."

As of Wednesday, the Philippines had 158,701 active cases, or those currently battling the coronavirus disease. The country has been seeing an exponential rise in infections, prompting the government to again place epicenter Metro Manila and four nearby provinces under the strictest enhanced community quarantine.

"The physical safety of the President remains our utmost concern," Roque said. "In addition, the preparation for the Talk to the People Address entails a number of staff complement and we also take due consideration of their well-being."

Duterte was last seen by the public on March 29, during a meeting with government officials on the country's pandemic response. The meeting was attended by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who confirmed on April 6 that he tested positive for COVID-19.

In a separate statement, Senator Christopher "Bong" Go said Duterte's engagement this week was postponed after several members of the Presidential Security Group caught the coronavirus.

Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante III, head of the PSG, told state-run PTV there were 45 active COVID-19 cases among his men. He was quick to clarify that the infected PSG personnel mostly manned Malacañang gates and were not among the President’s close-in security detail.

Several PSG members have been vaccinated. Health experts have explained that vaccinees can still contract the coronavirus, but they are protected from severe disease or hospitalization.

Where is Duterte?

Both Go and Durante stressed that the President is in Malacañang, free from any flu-like symptoms.

“Nandito po siya sa Malacañang, nagtatrabaho (He’s here in Malacañang, working),” Durante said.

Go belied rumors that the President is too sick to stick to his schedule of facing the nation. On Wednesday night, as #NasaanAngPangulo trended online, he shared photos of Duterte seated on a table cluttered with various documents and newspapers that appear to have been published on the same day.

"Sa mga may masasamang hangarin, wag muna kayo mag celebrate!! Nandito lang si Tatay Digong. Tambak ang trabaho," he said on his Facebook post.

[Translation: To those wishing ill of the President, don't celebrate yet. He is here, inundated with work.]

Their statements disputed some netizens' speculations that the President may be with his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, who has confirmed that she traveled to Singapore for “personal health management."

The mayor disclosed she is on a five-day leave from April 6 to 10, and that she has a travel authority from the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Singapore is among the top trending topics on Twitter. Replying to CNN Philippines' post on the President's rescheduled public appearance, one netizen asked, "Kasama ba siya ni Sara (Is he with Sara)?"

Another tweeted, "Nasa SG siguro 'yan (He might be in SG)!"