MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday fired back against critics of his absence from public eye during the onslaught of this year's strongest storm that destroyed thousands of houses, left billions of pesos in damage and killed at least 16 people.
Duterte was in Davao City when super typhoon Rolly churned across Luzon and skipped a televised Cabinet briefing on Sunday. The hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo (where is the President) trended over this.
"Iyong nagsabi na wala ako rito kasi wala, nasa probinsya, so, what's your problem? Ang mga papeles pinadala, tapos pirmahan ko. Ipadala ko ulit. Eh, machine lang naman iyan," he said in a televised briefing.
(Those who said that I was not here because I was in the province, so, what's your problem? The documents were sent, I signed them and sent them back. Those can be done through a machine.)
"'Do you want me to stand doon sa white sand ni [Environment Secretary] Roy Cimatu just to see that I am here?" he added, referring to the crushed dolomite beach in Manila Bay.
Duterte also said those who hail from the provinces like him "travel almost with regularity" back home for vacation and occasions like All Souls’ Day. The President visited his parents' grave in Davao last Wednesday.
"Kaya nga ako nauwi. Itong mga ugok naman, sinabi na wala ako. I was waiting for the typhoon to pass, then lumipad ako," he said.
(This is why I came home. Then this stupid people say I'm absent. I was waiting for the typhoon to pass, then I flew.)
Duterte earlier Monday led an aerial survey over Catanduanes and Albay provinces, where Rolly made its first 2 landfalls.
"You know, kung wala kayong patay, okay lang. Kami, may mga patay, kailangan umuwi kami doon sa amin," said Duterte.
(You know if you don't have departed loved ones, it's just okay. We have departed loved ones so, we needed to go home.)
Malacañang and the disaster council earlier said Duterte was not seen in public over the weekend because local governments were "functioning."
Catanduanes and nearby Albay province on the most populous island of Luzon bore the brunt of Rolly which was packing maximum sustained wind speeds of 225 kilometers per hour when it slammed into the east coast on Sunday.