Duterte defends absence during Typhoon Ulysses onslaught, says he was told to prioritize his safety

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 12) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday responded to criticisms that he is once again missing from the public eye during a calamity. In a six-minute taped speech, he explained that he wanted to "swim" with the typhoon victims to share their agony but he was prohibited.

"It's not that I am at a distance from you. Gusto kong pumunta doon, makipaglangoy sa inyo. Ang problema pinipigilan ako kasi daw pag namatay ako isa lang ang Presidente. Sabi ko may Vice President naman. Wala silang sinasagot," he said.

[Translation: I wanted to go there, to swim with you. The problem is I was stopped because if I die, there is only one President. I said there is the Vice President. They didn't respond.]

Duterte added his Presidential Security Group and doctor wouldn't take his reasoning that Vice President Leni Robredo can take his post if something unfortunate happens to him.

"Binabawalan ako ng nagbabantay sa akin, PSG, doktor. Hindi ako makalabas. Sabi ko gusto ko magpakita sa tao. Ang sabi nila bantayan 'yung pagkatao ko," pointing to his chest. "Kasi ako ang Presidente."

[Translated: I was prohibited to go out by the PSG and my doctor. I said I want to show up in the public. They said I needed to be protected because I was the President.]

He did not address the nation before the typhoon struck nor send a message to assure the public that response measures were ready. #NasaanAngPresidente has been trending since early Thursday morning. This was not the first time the hashtag trended; earlier this month, netizens were also searching for the President when the country was being battered by the Super Typhoon Rolly.

Duterte explained that government agencies prepared even before the typhoon hit the country, assuring his administration will provide necessary aid to those affected.

"I assure everyone that the government is on top of the situation. As President, I guarantee you that the government will do its best to provide assistance in the form of shelters, relief goods, financial aid, and post-disaster counseling," he said.

Officials said additional personnel have been tapped and deployed to speed up emergency rescue operations for victims of Typhoon Ulysses (international name: Vamco).