MANILA — The public should not inquire about President Rodrigo Duterte's whereabouts during the onslaught of typhoon Ulysses because he was monitoring updates, his spokesman said Friday.
Duterte used technology to monitor the situation, said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.
"Hindi naman kailangan gumala-gala para malaman kung anong nangyayari," he told reporters. "Hindi po dapat tanungin nasaan ang Pangulo. Iyan po ay kalokohan lang ng oposisyon."
(You do not need to go around to know what is happening... Don't ask where the President is. That is a folly of the opposition.)
"Ang Presidente po'y hindi nawawala. Palagi po natin siyang kapiling, palagi niya pong iniisip ang kapakanan ng ating mga kababayan," he added.
(The President is not missing. He is always with us, he is always thinking about the welfare of our compatriots.)
The President led an aerial survey after drawing flak over his supposed absence while the typhoon ravaged Luzon. He explained Thursday that while he wanted to go to typhoon victims, he was being prevented by aides.
Duterte earlier said the government was "on top of the situation," pledging relief funds, goods and shelter, and post-disaster counseling for victims.
On Thursday morning, Duterte attended a virtual summit of Southeast Asian leaders, while the hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo (where is the President?) trended on Twitter as people noted his absence while several parts of Luzon bore Ulysses' wrath.
The President cut short his attendance at the summit. However, he said his doctor and the Presidential Security Group advised him against going out in public.
"Gusto kong pumunta doon, makipaglangoy nga sa inyo. Ang problema pinipigilan ako, kasi raw 'pag namatay ako, isa lang ang Presidente," he said in a televised speech.
(I want to go there, swim with you. The problem is I was being stopped because they said if I die, there is only one President.)
"Ang sabi ko eh may Vice President naman. Wala naman silang sinasagot, nagtitinginan lang sila, tapos 'Hindi--hindi ka puwedeng mamatay nitong panahon na ito. Kung malunod ka, malulunod kaming lahat na nagtatrabaho sa'yo,'" he added.
(I told them there is a Vice President. They did not answer, they just looked at each other and said, 'No, you cannot die at this time. If you drown, all of us working for you will drown, too.')
In late October, #NasaanAngPangulo also gained online traction following Duterte's absence from a Cabinet-level briefing on Super Typhoon Rolly, which left a trail of devastation in several Bicol and Southern Luzon provinces.
"May mga nagsabi na walang ginawa, tutulog... wala kaming tulog dito," said Duterte.
(There are people saying nothing was done, we were sleeping. We had no sleep here.)
Ulysses left at least 14 dead and trapped residents in some areas on top of their roofs, as they awaited boat rescue from raging floods.
"Mayroon pong mga naghintay, pero unfortunately hindi naman instant talaga iyong ating pag-rescue sa kanila. Pero hindi naman po gaanong katagal ang kanilang paghihintay," Roque said.
(There are people who waited, but unfortunately, their rescue could not be instant. But they did not wait that long.)
"Susubukan pa rin natin sa mga susunod na pagkakataon lalo pang pagbutihin ang ating disaster preparedness nang makamit natin ang zero casualty," he said.
(We will try to improve our disaster preparedness so we can achieve zero casualty.)