“Welcome to Hokkaido!” President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. quipped while chuckling toward the end of a short press briefing in Cavite on Monday, October 31.
The short remark was Marcos’ response to speculations that he was in Japan as Tropical Storm Paeng (international name: Nalgae) was battering the country, claiming more than 100 lives and causing billions of damage to agriculture and infrastructure.
Reporters tried to ask follow-up questions but the president just waved his hand.
Malacañang earlier denied that Marcos was on holiday Japan, but officials failed to bare where exactly the president was.
The speculations stirred after the president participated in the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) meetings virtually on Saturday, October 29.
Beady-eyed social media users pointed to the international electrical outlet on Marcos’ conference call background to be similar to outlets in Japan.
In cracking the joke later on, Marcos denied the rumor in effect, but some Filipinos online found the cheeky comment misplaced while thousands are still suffering from the storm’s effects.
“The audacity to say welcome to Hokkaido when people are dead, thousands are homeless, needing immediate help. We are still clueless of his whereabouts in the midst of the storm, but yeah, welcome to Hokkaido,” award-winning writer Jerry Gracio wrote in a tweet.
“Insensitive to the max,” a Facebook user said.
“Ang dami namantay nakuha mo pang magbiro … sarcasm at its best!” a social media user said.
“So insensitive. So sickening. Just proves he [President Marcos] does not care. And the people around him are the same. What’s so funny about the remark? Wrong time, wrong place. So Sad,” a Facebook user wrote.
“Look how the president giggled to annoy the media. Unsolicited remark because the reporters did not ask him. That’s our national leader’s behavior in times of crisis when 101 people died and many are still homeless and others [are] hopeless,” Dr. Tony Leachon said.
Cartoonist Cartoonist Zach created a comic strip juxtaposing Marcos’ joke with an illustration of a Filipino family grieving for the loss of their loved ones.
ang joke pic.twitter.com/y15lDislfN
— Cartoonist ZACH (@cartoonistzach) October 31, 2022
According to the NDRRMC, 6,542 houses were damaged by Paeng, with 5,035 houses partially damaged and 1,507 totally damaged. These damages equate to around P12.42 million.
The typhoon also affected 2,418,249 individuals, 190,525 of whom are still in evacuation centers.