From slapping ‘veerus’ to spraying pesticide: How Duterte’s remarks against COVID-19 have evolved

September 22, 2020 - 3:33 PM

Some Filipinos scored President Rodrigo Duterte for sarcastically quipping that the country be sprayed with “pesticide” amid the coronavirus pandemic as he slammed Vice President Leni Robredo in his national address aired Monday night.

The chief executive in his September 21 speech slammed Robredo after she criticized the government’s Manila Bay project and the administration’s overall response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Huwag kayong maniwala diyan—sus mga itong dilawan lalo na—I hate to mention her name, but ito si Leni, kung ano-anong pinagsasabi. Alam mo Leni, kung gusto mo, if you really want to do away with the COVID, spray-han natin itong Pilipinas o Manila ng pesticide galing sa eroplano para patay lahat,” Duterte quipped.

“You cannot—you cannot exterminate the—the COVID by
itong ano lang ngayon. And you’ll just—the only thing that we can do, really is to wear a mask, wear a face mask, and that’s it, and wait for the vaccine,” he added.

Robredo immediately responded through social media and said that a public health crisis will be resolved with medical interventions and not through a “pesticide.”

READ: Robredo on Duterte’s pest spray suggestion: Pesticide won’t solve pandemic

She previously said that she has a right to criticize the administration as a Filipino citizen for the sake of democratic nation-building.

Her office has been providing support for medical frontliners and other Filipinos in terms of transport, food, medical equipment and other needs ever since the government imposed community quarantine measures last March. 

Meanwhile, pesticides are “chemical compounds that are used to kill pests, including insects, rodents, fungi and unwanted plants (weeds),” according to the World Health Organization.

It is used to kill “vectors of disease” such as mosquitoes and to kill pests that damage agricultural crops.

WHO said that pesticides are “potentially toxic” to other organisms, including humans, and needed to be used with precautionary measures.

In an undated administrative order of the Food and Drug Administration titled: “Rules and Regulations on Registration of Household/Urban Pesticides, and For Other Purposes,” it mentioned that these products could be harmful.

“These products have great impact on public health, as there are designed to control the vermin or vectors on infectious diseases,” the FDA said, referring to pesticides.

“The product active ingredients, additives, formulation, indication, use, storage condition, and disposal should adhere to international
standards to protect the public, applicators and the receiving environment,” it added.

Duterte vs. COVID-19

Filipinos who watched Duterte’s national address recalled how his banter against COVID-19 has evolved from slapping it to supposedly dealing with it through pesticide.

RELATED: From virus slapping to staying united: Duterte’s change of tone in addressing COVID-19

“Before, gas daw to disinfect the virus. Now, spraying pesticide all over Manila. LMAO. Huuuy Duterte? Are you for real?” asked a Twitter user.

“From sampal to gasoline to pesticide for the veerus real quick. Galing ng TABOGO niyong presidente uy!” exclaimed another online user with sarcasm.

“After gasoline, PESTICIDE naman ngayon ang suggestion ni Duterte para panlaban sa COVID virus. Palala (nang) palala … ang virus at utak ni Util,” commented another Filipino.

Duterte last February quipped that he would slap the virus, which cannot be seen with a naked eye and is minuscule in nature.

“P—inang idioto na corona ito. Hinahanap ko gusto ko sampalin ang g*go,” Duterte said before local government executives in Pasay on February 10.

He also claimed that Filipinos cannot get sick easily and cited their fervor in praying instead.

In July, Duterte erroneously advised the public to reuse face masks and soak it in diesel or gasoline if they cannot afford to spray it with alcohol or Lysol.

READ: Juxtaposed: False claims of Duterte and Trump on how to thread COVID-19 pandemic

The health department and Malacañang dismissed his remarks as a “joke” which prompted Kapuso actor Jason Abalos to lash out and said that he had voted for a “change,” not for foolery.

The actor was friends with Dr. Leandro Resurreccion III, a renowned pediatric surgeon who passed away in April due to complications caused by COVID-19.

Duterte, however, reiterated that he is not joking when he said that reusable face masks could be disinfected with gasoline or diesel.

“Hindi ako nagbibiro. Totohanan iyon. Ang akala ninyo nagbibiro lang ako,” the president said in a national address that aired on July 31.

Integrated Chemists of the Philippines in a Facebook post said that “gasoline must not be used as a disinfectant,” because it poses harm to humans when inhaled. —With Rosette Adel