MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte this year wrestled with one of the biggest challenges of his administration: the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The Philippines as of December 30 has tallied more than 470,00 COVID-19 cases, with parts of the country still under various levels of quarantine restrictions.
And while the economy is on the mend after being dragged into recession, with millions out of work, there is now renewed concern over a new virus variant that has started spreading supposedly from the United Kingdom.
Here are 20 key quotes from the President about the crisis:
Duterte initially refused to ban travel between the Philippines and China, despite the COVID-19 outbreak that emerged from the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
"Mahirap 'yang ano, sabihin mong (it is hard to say that) you suspend everything because they are not also suspending theirs and they continue to respect the freedom flights that we enjoy," Duterte said in a chance interview on Jan. 29.
On Feb. 2, the President banned the entry of foreigners coming from China, on the same day that the Philippines announced its first coronavirus death: a 44-year-old man from Wuhan.
Duterte the next day sought to allay public fears about the virus.
"Everything is well in the country. There's nothing really to be extra-scared of that coronavirus thing,” he said on Feb. 3.
Duterte, who has pursued friendlier ties with Beijing, also told Filipinos to refrain from blaming Chinese people for the spread of the virus.
"This kind of mentioning the Chinese and blaming them, it’s like a xenophobia. You hate anything that is Chinese. It is not good," he said.
"One is that we have many Filipinos in China. Second is even if there are none, you know, we are a community of nations. We cooperate. China has been kind to us. We can only also show the same favor to them," he added.
On March 17, Duterte extended the lockdown of Metro Manila to the entire Luzon, home to about half of the country's population, on lockdown to arrest the spread of the respiratory disease.
The lockdown prescribed immigration curbs, curfews, bans on public gatherings, social distancing, the shutting of malls and a halt to non-essential movements in and out of the city.
"Make no mistake, we are in the fight of our lives," Duterte said. "We are at war against a vicious and invisible enemy. One that cannot be seen by the naked eye. In this extraordinary war, we are all soldiers."
Duterte also told the public that the country had funds for the crisis.
“Huwag na huwag kayo matakot kasi sabi ko may pera ako, at kung mayroong palpak-palpak diyan kaunti, ayusin namin ‘yan,” he said.
(Don’t ever be afraid because I have money, and if there is a slight mess there, we will fix it.)
The President gave this instruction to his troops if they encounter quarantine violators who fight back: "Shoot them dead."
"Naintindihan ninyo? Patay. Eh kaysa mag-gulo kayo diyan, eh ‘di ilibing ko na kayo. Ah ‘yung libing, akin ‘yan. Huwag ninyo subukan ang gobyerno kasi itong gobyerno na ito hindi inutil,” he said on April 1.
(Do you understand? Dead. Instead of having trouble there, I will just bury you. I will take care of the burial. Don't try this government because this government is not inutile)
The police later that month shot dead a former soldier who was supposedly suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
In April, Duterte also said he has warned about the crisis from its start, despite previously saying that the coronavirus should not be feared.
"Itong COVID na ito, ito talaga ‘yung tunay na at the start sinabi ko sa inyo bantay kayo dito, bantay tayo, talagang yayariin tayo nitong COVID na ‘to," he said on April 8.
(This COVID, at the start I told you be on guard, let’s be on guard, this COVID will really hit us.)
Duterte defended Health Secretary Francisco Duque III over the procurement of allegedly overpriced personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing machines needed to fight the pandemic.
"Gusto ko lang malaman ng sambayanang Pilipino na I take full responsibility, na ang utos ko na dalian mo, wala akong pakialam kung saan ka magkuha, magnakaw ka, and I remember saying it. I do not care whether you go and steal, borrow or kill a person to get what needs to be done," Duterte said.
(I want the public to know that I take full responsibility, I was the one who ordered him to act fast. I don't care where you get the equipment, whether you steal it, and I remember saying it. I do not care whether you go and steal, borrow or kill a person to get what needs to be done.)
Duterte in several other occasions rejected calls for Duque's sacking in connection with the latter's supposed shortcomings in the pandemic response and corruption allegations against state medical insurer PhilHealth, whose board he chairs.
Duterte urged the public to refrain from pointing blame as coronavirus infections breached the 30,000 mark, while infections spiked in Cebu.
"Cebuanos, don't be mad at me. Let's just be frank. I will go there. I will be frank with you when I get there. You are hard-headed," Duterte said in the Visayan vernacular.
The President said that the COVID-19 vaccine was "a global need and everyone will go for it," which prompted him to ask Chinese President Xi for help to secure a supply of the drug.
"I made a plea to President Xi Jinping that if they have the vaccine, can they allow us to be one of the first or if it’s needed, if we have to buy it, that we will be granted credit so that we can normalize as fast as possible," Duterte said in his State of the Nation Address.
In the same month, Duterte told the public to reuse their anti-virus masks after disinfecting it with alcohol or gasoline, contrary to experts' advice. The President's aides dismissed his remark as a joke.
"Maski gamitin mo siguro 'yan ng dalawang beses okay man, kung isprayhan mo ng alcohol pagtapos, 'wag 'yun inii-spray mo tapos suot agad," he said.
(Maybe even if you use it twice, it's fine. Just spray alcohol after but don't spray and then immediately wear it after.)
"Pagtapos ng araw, hang it somewhere. Isprayhan mo lang Lysol if you can afford it, 'yung wala, ibabad mo ng gasolina o diesel, p*t*ng*n**ng COVID 'yan, di uubra 'yan diyan," he added.
(At the end of the day, hang it somewhere. Spray it with Lysol if you can afford it. If not, dip it in gasoline or diesel. COVID-19 won't have a chance.)
The President berated health workers who made public their request for at least 2 weeks of “breathing space” by shifting Mega Manila back to a strict lockdown.
"Kung sabihin ninyo kung anong mabuti and you raise the spectacle of 'yung agony ninyo, and you treat it as if you're ready to stop to work. 'Wag naman ganoon kasi kawawa naman 'yung mga kababayan natin. Sino na lang aasahan namin?" Duterte said on Aug. 3 .
(If you say what is good and you raise the spectacle of your agony, and you treat it as if you're ready to stop to work, don't be like that because our compatriots will suffer. Who else can we rely on?)
"'Yung mga health workers na hindi connected sa gobyerno, we will try to help. But there is no need for you and for the guys, 1,000 of you, telling us what to do publicly. You could have just wrote [sic] us a letter. Lahat naman ng sinasabi ninyo, sinusunod namin... Next time, you can ask for an audience. Pero 'wag ho kayong magsigaw-sigaw, rebolusyon, rebolusyon," he added.
(The health workers who are not connected to the government, we will try to help. But there is no need for you and for the guys, 1,000 of you, telling us what to do publicly. You could have just written us a letter. We follow everything you said. Next time, you can ask for an audience. But don't yell, start a revolution.)
On July 31, Duterte promised Filipinos that "by the grace of God, I hope by December we will be back to normal."
"Let's just wait for a vaccine. Let's wait till December, if we can just be patient... We are not going back to a 'new normal'. It's going to be normal again," he said.
Metro Manila and a few other areas will remain under the third strictest of 4 lockdown levels until the end of the year.
Duterte rejected Vice President Leni Robredo's suggestions to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
"You will just destroy government. Huwag ninyong sirain ang gobyerno kasi masisira ang tao. 'Pag nasisira ang gobyerno, lulutang tayong lahat, maski na sabihin ninyong mamatay ako bukas, it cannot solve the problem of the country," he said on Aug. 25.
(Don't destroy the government because the people will be destroyed. If the government is destroyed, we will all float. Even if you say that I could die tomorrow, it cannot solve the problem of the country.)
The President later in November attacked Robredo again for saying, without proof, that she spurred the public to ask about his initial absence from public eye during a typhoon's onslaught.
Duterte refused to pay in advance to reserve vaccine candidates against the novel coronavirus.
"There is nothing with finality, and you want us to make a reservation by depositing money? You must be crazy," the President said.
He eventually changed his mind in November and allowed payment in advance for vaccines to ensure that the Philippines would get a share of the supply.
Also in September, Duterte denied any involvement with his supporters' "revolutionary government" proposal. He later said talks for this should be public.
"Sabi ko nga, 'yung revolutionary government should not be discussed in sub rosa (in secrecy). It should be discussed publicly. Including the military, they should be able to say what (they want to say)," he said.
"If they do not want it... o kung may gusto silang pagbabago (or if they want change), let's hear them out."
A feud for the top post of the House of Representatives between 2 Duterte allies threatened in October to delay the passage of the 2021 national budget that included funds to fight the pandemic.
“Huwag naman sana ninyong sobrahan ang laro sa Congress na iyong budget mismo ang nailagay sa alanganin. I am just appealing to you,” Duterte said on Oct. 8.
(Don't be excessive in your play there in Congress that the budget is put in jeopardy.)
“Either you resolve the issue sa impasse n’yo d’yan and pass the budget legally, constitutionally. ‘Pag hindi n’yo ginawa, ako ang gagawa para sa inyo,” Duterte said in a taped public address.
"Mukhang pera (greedy for money)," Duterte said on Nov. 5, when he was informed that the Philippine Red Cross stopped conducting COVID-19 tests due to the P1.1 billion debt of state medical insurer PhilHealth, whose officials faced allegations of corruption.
Whistleblowers this year accused PhilHealth officials of pocketing P15 billion in public funds, and approving supposedly overpriced projects and fund releases to "favored" hospitals.
Duterte asked PhilHealth CEO and President Ricardo Morales to resign over the issue. The Chief Executive gave Morales' replacement Dante Gierran until December to clean up PhilHealth, said Malacañang.
He also told the justice department to investigate the entire government for corruption.
The President in November also appointed Gen. Debold Sinas as the new chief of the Philippine National Police.
The general earlier made headlines for alleged killings in Central Visayas when he was still police chief there, and a mañanita or pre-dawn birthday serenade in May that allegedly violated protocols meant to stop the spread of COVID-19.
"Akin ’yun, kung may kasalanan siya doon, pardoned siya. Wala akong nakitang kasalanang masama na may mura, implications, masamang malisya, wala. Pumunta na ’yung ibang sundalo, mañanita surprise nga, di naman alam ng pobre,” the President said on Nov. 14.
(Blame me. If he made any mistakes there, he is already pardoned. I did not see anything wrong about the celebration. There were no bad words, malice, none. People went there and it was a surprise.)
"As early as now, we [are] saying sorry that there will be a curtailment of so many things you are used to during Christmas time," Duterte said on Dec. 7, as he asked Filipinos to follow COVID-19 restrictions.
This month, he also told fellow world leaders that all countries should get access to the vaccines against the novel coronavirus.
"If any country is excluded by reason of poverty or strategic unimportance, this gross injustice will haunt the world for a long time," he told the United Nations. "We cannot let this happen. No one is safe unless everyone is safe."
Nearly 9 months into the pandemic lockdown, he also said: "Alam mo, ang importante pala, sa totoo lang, and I realize now, it’s the testing—‘yung swabbing pati ‘yung test."
(You know, what is important, in truth, and I realize now, it's the testing—the swabbing and the test.)
Malacañang has denied that the President realized the importance of COVID-19 testing too late, saying it has always been a priority.