Duterte’s Davao trip part of official duties, says Roque
MANILA, Philippines — The decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to fly home to Davao City was part of his official duties to check on Mindanao’s progress as the island shifted to the “new normal” amid the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, according to presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.
“I know this might become an issue. But let us not forget that the President’s trip home to Davao City is not just a visit after 67 days [of staying in Manila] but because he is also the President,” Roque told radio dzBB on Saturday.
He said the President needed to check the state of Mindanao, his home region, as it grappled with COVID-19 and eased into a general community quarantine (GCQ). “Mindanao is trying to go back to normal. So that is still part of the President’s duties,” he said.
On Sunday, Roque said the President would certainly be back to Malacañang for the meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases.
“As a father of the nation, the President — considering his age and comorbidities — is a hands-on working Chief Executive who spent his weekend to check how this global health scare impacted the lives of people on the ground, especially those living outside Metro Manila and Luzon,” he said.
Roque made the remarks amid flak over Mr. Duterte’s decision to fly home to Davao City on the first day of eased community quarantine restrictions in Metro Manila.
The President went home to Davao City at past midnight Saturday as Metro Manila shifted into a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ), which allows more businesses to operate at limited capacity.
The Presidential Security Group earlier said Mr. Duterte visited his hometown after more than two months of not seeing his family. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the 75-year-old President would fly home every weekend to be with his family.
Over the weekend, some netizens criticized Mr. Duterte for flying on a private plane amid the public health crisis and restrictions set on ordinary citizens.
The IATF has banned Filipinos below 20 years old and those 60 years old and above, as well as those with chronic illnesses, from going outside of their homes, except when purchasing essential goods and services.
It also prohibited nonessential travel between areas under community quarantine, such as between a MECQ area and a GCQ zone. There are no commercial flights for now.
The agency, however, allows government officials to travel between community quarantine zones.
Roque stressed that ordinary Filipinos could not go home to their provinces for nonessential purposes, such as leisure or family visits for now.
“We should avoid that because the IATF does not allow it. We are limiting essential travel,” he said.
—JULIE M. AURELIO
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