As President Rodrigo Duterte skipped this week’s talk to the people twice, a former chief executive who delivered a national address from his hospital bed was remembered.
Eufemio Agbayani III shared that former President Elpidio Quirino, the sixth president of the country, delivered his State of the Nation Address while confined in a hospital.
“At a time without livestreaming, this was quite a feat. A true leader, a worthy president, never lets illness—potential or actual—get in the way of serving the people and showing that he is in charge,” Agbayani wrote on Facebook.
Quirino delivered his SONA on Jan. 23, 1950 via radio broadcast while confined at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland, the United States.
He reportedly underwent three operations for his bleeding ulcers.
The Official Gazette said that Quirino’s broadcast was picked up by the local radio network at 10 a.m., just in time for the opening of the regular Congressional session.
It was the only SONA in history where the president did not personally appear in a joint session of Congress to deliver his speech.
Quirino’s presidency was marked by post-World War II reconstruction, general economic gains and increased economic aid from the US. It was also during his administration that the country’s Central Bank was established.
Meanwhile, some Filipinos who read Agbayani’s post juxtaposed it with today’s situation where the sitting chief executive was not able to address his people twice this week amid a public health crisis.
“Kung gusto, may paraan. Kung ayaw, maraming dahilan. Kung wala kang dapat itago, bakit hindi ka nagpapakita?” a Reddit user said.
“It is very odd no, you would think na video call would’ve been more ‘relatable’ sa Filipinos, na parang kailangan na siya, but I guess I agree that means we won’t see his full condition and I don’t think they want us to see that,” another Reddit user commented.
“Ang akin lang naman, nakapag-send si Bong Go ng picture nila na nasa Malacanang at nagwo-work sila late night. Ano ba namang gamitin ‘yung same phone para mag-record ng video to address the nation. ANG HIRAP BA NON?!” a different online user wrote.
Duterte was supposed to deliver his weekly national address on Monday, where he updates the public about the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but he wasn’t able to do so.
The Palace said that his address might be held on Wednesday, but that did not push through as well.
Duterte’s former aide-turned-lawmaker said several members of the Presidential Security Group have contracted the virus but he assured the public that the president was not exposed to them.
“The physical safety of the President remains our utmost concern,” the Palace said before.
“In addition, the preparation for the ‘Talk to the People Address’ entails a number of staff complement and we also take due consideration of their well-being. Please be guided accordingly,” Duterte’s spokesperson added.
The president will resume delivering his national address next week.
Duterte was last seen in public on March 29, when he delivered his national address and witnessed the arrival of China’s Sinovac coronavirus vaccine.
Hashtags such as “#NasaanAngPangulo” gained traction on local Twitter after his Monday address was postponed.
Duterte’s former aide-turned-lawmaker, Sen. Bong Go, shared a photo of him sitting behind a desk filled with papers supposedly in Bahay Pangarap, but some Filipinos questioned its authenticity as they shared their observations.
Why is this part here too pixelated than the rest? pic.twitter.com/FrHOQk6Q6F
— KarlBruce (@KarlBruce88) April 8, 2021
The neck. May hindi na linis pic.twitter.com/fWmKvRMvJv
— purplepoetry88 🐉 (@ceebee_em) April 8, 2021
Another picture of Duterte was released on Thursday but this earned criticisms from some Filipinos as well.
Daming time magselfie pero walang update para sa sambayanan? Ang daming platform na pwedeng gamitin kahit WFH. 🙃 https://t.co/gPZ6Clg4RM
— Jake Villanueva (@jakevillanueva_) April 8, 2021
Duterte’s former aide-turned-lawmaker has been releasing pictures of the president as “proof of life” whenever the public asks about his absence or whenever he is not seen for a notable period.
A Palace official on Thursday said that the president remains fit and healthy amid the speculations.
“We abhor and deplore the fake news that circulated (on) different social media platforms regarding President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s health after the recent postponement of this week’s ‘Talk to the People,’’ Secretary Martin Andanar of the Presidential Communications Operations Office said.
“As easy as it may be for some people to blame the government for any mishap, even the surge in COVID-19 cases, these attempts to wish and to ponder ill intent—and worst, death—to anyone, especially to the President of our country, are foul and tasteless, even if was meant in jest,” he added.
Duterte is the oldest official to have assumed the presidency at 71 years old.
He previously admitted to having chronic and relatively serious ailments in the past.
The president also disclosed that he has Barret’s esophagus in 2018, a long-term development suffered by those who experience gastroesophageal reflux or GERD.
Duterte likewise bared that he underwent non-surgical procedures endoscopy and colonoscopy for it.
He also revealed of having myasthenia gravis in 2019, an autoimmune disease that causes the drooping of one of his eyelids.
On Friday, also the Day of Valor or Araw ng Kagitingan, the president only released a message paying tribute to the nation’s frontliners.
“As we continue to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, we take a moment to honor the fortitude displayed by our selfless and dedicated frontliners whose unrelenting commitment in this fight reflects the heroism of the warriors of Bataan that continues to inspire in us a greater sense of patriotism and solidarity during these trying times,” Duterte’s message reads.