Photos of President Rodrigo Duterte showing him golfing and jogging were released amid skyrocketing COVID-19 cases and calls for leadership are mounting.
Duterte’s former aide, who’s now a senator, disclosed the president’s activities and photographs twice, on April 10 and April 7, saying they were taken at Malacañan Palace grounds.
His restful weekend, as seen in the photos, however, was in contrast to calls to action and demands online.
The hashtag #PatayNaBa was trending on Twitter as Filipinos were awaiting the next quarantine classification for “NCR Plus.”
Medical organizations, moreover, urged the government to enact concrete reforms in its pandemic response.
Duterte was supposed to deliver updates on the government’s response on Monday last week but the Palace later announced that it might be held the next Wednesday.
But the anticipated message did not push through that day as well.
Duterte similarly failed to attend the Day of Valor rites on April 9, further fueling inquiries about his whereabouts via the hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo.
In the photos and a video released last Saturday, the president was jogging, playing golf and riding a motorcycle in the middle of the night.
The previous one, meanwhile, was a photo of him behind an office table filled with stacks of paper and the latest newspaper at the corner, then dated April 7.
Calls for leadership
Duterte’s peaceful workday and weekend, however, were in contrast to calls to action and demands online.
“These days, Malacañang is obsessed with finding ways to convince us that the president is alive and well instead of being obsessed with findings ways to make sure that we are ALL alive and all,” one user said.
“Sad no na the people are constantly looking for the leader amid the pandemic? Tapos papakitaan nyo ng video na nag wa-walk jog with shadow boxing jabs? We don’t need a comic. We need a leader who will bring us out of this pandemic. A leader who will protect our territory,” another user wrote.
“If I showed up to work and did nothing but prove I was alive, I’d be fired,” another user commented.
One user pointed out that these “proofs of life” showed that the president can still carry out his duties.
“If this proves anything, it is the fact na kaya niya lumabas ng kwarto niya para magtrabaho. Therefore, walang valid excuse para sa absence niya for more than a week to address the highest recorded COVID cases and China’s illegal occupation of the WPS!” the user wrote.
Social media was also filled with speculations about Duterte’s health condition since he had admitted suffering from chronic illnesses in the past.
Events during Duterte’s absence
Last April 9, ABS-CBN reporter Chiara Zambrano shared a video where the vessel carrying the Filipino team she was part of was supposedly being chased by two missile attack crafts the Chinese Navy deployed.
This was the reportedly the first recorded use of Chinese military vessels against civilians since the West Philippine Sea row began.
The news team was traveling across various reefs and shoals in the West Philippine Sea near Palawan to cover the situation of Filipino fisherfolk following the arrival of Chinese vessels at their fishing grounds.
The Department of Foreign Affairs later released a statement saying that authorities are looking into these “reports.”
Zambrano later clarified on Twitter that the team was in communication with the Armed Forces of the Philippines throughout their journey.
The news team was in communication with the leadership of the Armed Forces of the Philippines before, during, and after the journey. https://t.co/2lxnG1WC7d
— Chiara Zambrano (@chiarazambrano) April 10, 2021
On the same day, the Department of Health recorded the highest number of deaths in a day with 401 COVID-19 fatalities.