Swab test first: PSG tightens security for Duterte as more Palace personnel contract virus

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 29 2020 04:31 PM

Members of the Presidential Security Group surround President Rodrigo Duterte at the Batasang Pambansa, Quezon City for his State of the Nation Address, July 27, 2020. Presidential Photo

MANILA - Stricter safety protocols will be implemented around President Rodrigo Duterte, the head of his official security detail said Wednesday as more personnel in Malacañang have contracted COVID-19.

All guests and personnel who will attend functions of the President should undergo swab testing at least a week before the meeting and will be subject to rapid antibody testing on the day of the event, Presidential Security Group commander Col. Jesus Durante III said.

"Before, we only require 'yung mga rapid tests, but this time, ni-require na natin ang RT-PCR tests," Durante told ABS-CBN News in a phone interview.

(Before, we only require rapid tests, but this time we require RT-PCR tests.)

"Klaro na kasi ngayon the cases have spiked up especially in the [Malacañang] complex. There have been reported cases, so medyo mag-implement na tayo ng more deliberate measures to protect the President from the virus," he added.

(It's clear now that the cases have spiked especially in the complex.)

Previously, the PSG only requires rapid antibody testing for individuals who will come in close contact with the 75-year-old leader.

But just last week, at least two offices in Malacañang were placed under lockdown due to reported COVID-19 infections among personnel.

Durante also confirmed that eight PSG personnel assigned to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea tested positive for the virus. 

So far, all of President Duterte's events have occurred smoothly, Durante said, noting that all of the chief executive's functions were "deliberately planned" to ensure the leader's safety.

"For now, his activities [are] limited to small groups...These activities were deliberately planned, so far wala kaming kinancel na event because of COVID-related events in the area," Durante added.

(We have yet to cancel any event of the President because of COVID-19.)

Since the lockdowns started in March, President Duterte's trips and public appearances have been limited to meetings either in Malacañang or his Davao office dubbed as Panacañang.

It was only this month that the President went on trips to visit military camps in Zamboanga City and Jolo, Sulu. 

On Monday, he flew to Batasang Pambansa to deliver his fifth State of the Nation Address before a limited audience.

- with a report from Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News