MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said he is not amenable to the Presidential Security Group's (PSG) "no touch" policy on him amid the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), saying it is part of his job to meet people.
"Trabaho ko 'yan eh. Puwera na lang kung 'yung participants nila, matakot," Duterte told reporters after he met with members of the inter-agency task force on COVID-19.
Duterte also said he will not decline invitations despite the new coronavirus threat.
"No, I will not decline invitations. I will shake hands with everybody. I will go to Mindanao to visit my dead soldiers, if they are still there, and to congratulate my warriors. Namatayan ako ng apat na sundalo," he explained.
"Sinasabi ko sa inyo, na kung tawagin na ako ng Diyos ngayong oras na ito, pupunta na ako. Tapos na ako," Duterte added.
The PSG announced a "no touch" policy as a preventive measure for Duterte and his family amid the new coronavirus outbreak.
Senator Christopher "Bong" Go, who was also Duterte's former longtime aide, agrees with the President's view.
"Kung magpapakita kami ng takot ay matatakot ang mga Pilipino," the senator said.
(If we display fear, then the Filipinos will also be afraid.)
"Kung ang senador o ang presidente ay magpapakita na takot kami humawak, makipagsalamuha sa kapwa Pilipino, not our style... Hindi papayag si Pangulo na lalayuan siya ng tao," he said.
(If a senator or the President shows that he is afraid to touch people, to interact with our fellow Filipinos, (that's) not our style... The President will not allow people to distance themselves from him.)
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo earlier said that Duterte "welcomes" the "no touch policy."
"He always follows the advice of the PSG. That is for his own health," Panelo told Palace reporters.
Duterte's partner, Honeylet Avanceña, who is a nurse by profession, said she reminds the President to always take his vitamins and avoid crowds in the meantime.
The Philippines has 24 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Monday night, including a number of local transmission cases.
Earlier in the day, Duterte declared a state of public health emergency amid the rapidly spreading disease that has spread to over 100 countries, infecting more than 100,000 people and killing nearly 4,000.
- with reports from Katrina Domingo and Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News