Duterte skips public address as over 120 security members catch COVID-19

Pia Gutierrez and Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 07 2021 06:02 PM | Updated as of Apr 07 2021 10:06 PM

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte shows a vial of COVID-19 vaccine Coranavac (SINOVAC) after the ceremonial turnover at the Bulwagang Kalayaan in Villamor Air Base, Pasay City on February 28, 2021. King Rodriguez, Presidential Photo

MANILA (UPDATED) — President Rodrigo Duterte will skip his public address this week, his spokesman said on Wednesday, as his security team confirmed over 120 COVID-19 infections among its members. 

Duterte's weekly "Talk the People" was expected to air this Wednesday. But his spokesman Harry Roque said the chief executive's speech this week would not push through "in light of the rising number of active COVID-19 cases." 

"The physical safety of the President remains our utmost concern," Roque said in a statement. "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." 

The Presidential Security Group "recently" tallied 126 coronavirus infections among its personnel, said the group's Commander Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante. 

"But now, may mga na-clear na sa quarantine so we are down to around 45 active cases," he said in an interview on the state network PTV. 

(But some were cleared during quarantine so we are down to 45 active cases.)

PSG personnel sickened with COVID-19 were "manning our gates" and are "exposed daily to the local populace," said Durante. 

"At the least, our PSG personnel who got infected are not directly or closely detailed with the President and are all asymptomatic without experiencing any adverse symptom. Hence, rest assured that the President is safe and in good health," he added in a statement. 

It was not immediately clear who among the security members contracted COVID-19, but questions were raised because Duterte last year admitted that some members of the PSG already had COVID-19 vaccines from Chinese state firm Sinopharm. 

Roque previously said Duterte, who preferred the Sinopharm vaccine, had yet to be vaccinated. Sinopharm vaccine is not yet cleared for emergency use in the Philippines.
 
Duterte last delivered his "Talk the People," a weekly speech that tackles the COVID-19 pandemic and a wide range of issues, on March 29. He celebrated his 76th birthday the day before. 

The celebration made headlines with a photo showing Duterte blowing a lit candle on top of a plate of rice, prompting critics to accuse him of pretending to be poor. 

A viral video during the event also showed Duterte appearing to try to grope his female house helper. Roque said there was "no malice" in the President's gesture. 

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