MANILA— President Rodrigo Duterte skipped this year's commemoration of Araw ng Kagitingan because of the continuing community quarantine across the country to stop the spread of COVID-19, his spokesman said on Friday.
Malacañang on Friday released Duterte's Day of Valor message, as he again skipped the annual celebration of Araw ng Kagitingan at Mt. Samat in Bataan province.
“The President’s critics are asking why President Rodrigo Duterte has no public event to commemorate Araw ng Kagitingan. Lest they forget, we are under community quarantine, where gatherings are not encouraged,” said Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque.
“In addition, active cases of COVID-19 remain high and we have to ensure not only the safety of the President but also the physical well-being of the staff and the security in charge of the coordination and preparation of the presidential engagement or event,” Roque said in a statement.
Metro Manila and surrounding Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal provinces are under the strictest quarantine level at least until April 11.
Last year, government cancelled the celebration of Araw ng Kagitingan because of COVID-19.
In 2019, Duterte led the Day of Valor commemoration in Jolo, Sulu. He also skipped commemoration rites in Bataan's Mount Samat in 2018 because he attended a business forum in China.
Duterte attended the Bataan ceremony in 2017, almost a year into his presidency.
Duterte has been skipping major national commemorations, including Independence Day, Bonifacio Day and Rizal Day, even before the pandemic.
The President earlier this week canceled his public address after about 120 members of his security team caught COVID-19.
His last public engagement was on March 29. His former longtime aide Sen. Christopher Go released photos of Duterte on Wednesday and Thursday in a bid to quell rumors that the President was allegedly ill.
"As to claims that the recent photos of President Duterte are photoshopped, those who made noise on the matter are the usual detractors of the Chief Executive who see nothing good in what he does," said Roque. "Let them be."