MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday said the government has been working tirelessly during and after a series of typhoons hit Metro Manila and parts of Luzon in the past few weeks, amid criticism he has not sufficiently addressed the country ahead of calamities.
In a televised address Saturday night, Duterte said he was barred from going out and helping residents affected by the typhoon because of its wrath.
“Sa mga naghahanap kung nasaan kami, patawarin sana kayo ng Diyos. We were working, we were here, there was a summit going on while the typhoon was passing by. Sabi ko pagdating ng typhoon take off tayo,” he said.
(To those asking where we are, I hope the Lord forgives you. I said we will take off after the typhoon.)
The televised address also came in the wake of devastating floods that inundated the province of Cagayan, where residents appealed to be rescued on top of their homes as early as Friday night due to Ulysses.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, meanwhile, said Friday that the public should not ask about the President’ whereabouts during the onslaught of Ulysses because Duterte was monitoring updates.
“Gusto ko man lumabas ng typhoon ano man ang magawa ko? The winds were howling, there was flooding, there was nobody as yet on the ground doing whatever cleaning, helping people,” Duterte said.
(I wanted to get out during the typhoon but what can I do?)
He said despite this, he is still a “worker of the government” and the entire Philippines.
Roque earlier said Duterte was in Davao City when super typhoon Rolly, the world's strongest typhoon this year, churned across Luzon and the officials skipped a televised Cabinet briefing.
The hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo (where is the President) trended after his no-show.
The number of people killed by Ulysses rose to 33 on Saturday, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, while 20 are still missing.