Duterte starts 2018 monitoring fire
DAVAO CITY — President Rodrigo Duterte quietly greeted the new year at home, but spent the first few hours of 2018 keeping tabs on a fire that gutted 50 houses in a large residential and commercial area.
Mr. Duterte, home for the holidays after a hectic itinerary, was having media noche — the fare included vermicelli soup and steamed lapu-lapu — when the fire broke out at 12:30 a.m. on Monday amid the revelry, according to a reliable source.
Mr. Duterte sent out his special assistant, Christopher “Bong” Go, to check on the fire that struck Barangay Wilfredo Aquino in Agdao district, one of the city’s largest residential and commercial areas, and the victims, the source said.
He ate little and hadn’t slept since then, the source said.
“He called [Go] up at 4 a.m. and asked how the victims were and he also instructed him to help those who were sent to the hospital for various reasons due to the fire,” the source said.
No casualty was reported in the blaze that gutted 50 houses, made of light materials and mostly belonging to informal settlers, investigators said.
It came more than a week after the Dec. 23 New City Commercial Center mall fire that killed 37 employees of an American market research firm, and a mall security officer, one of the city’s worst fires in years.
Five fire officials have been relieved over the fire that had been blamed on the mall’s alleged lack of exits and nonworking sprinkler and alarm system.
Mr. Duterte has made himself scarce since flying home last Saturday, hours after leading ceremonies marking the martyrdom of the country’s national hero, Jose Rizal, at Rizal Park in Manila, his last official event for 2017.
He has stayed at home since then to catch some rest after a gruelling itinerary that saw him fly to storm-devastated areas in Mindanao after staying up late to monitor the NCCC blaze in Davao.
“He just stayed in his house. He was resting,” another source said.
Mr. Duterte spent hours talking to officials and families of the victims during the mall blaze. On Christmas Day, he received updates on storms “Urduja” and “Vinta,” and the mall fire from home. He also flew to Lanao del Norte, where 117 people perished in the floods and landslides, to check on the residents there on Dec. 27.
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