Duterte’s latest COVID-19 national address caught Filipinos off-guard. Here’s why.

March 25, 2020 - 3:17 PM
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Duterte in March 24 briefing
President Rodrigo Duterte in his national address on March 24, 2020. (Screengrab from RTV Malacañang via YouTube)

President Rodrigo Duterte might have made history when he almost delivered his latest briefing on COVID-19 on time, for the first time in recent weeks.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo announced that the president will address the nation at 10 p.m. on Tuesday.

Several online users anticipated that the president will deliver his speech much later than the announced schedule since his previous speeches were delivered around two to four hours late.

The chief executive, however, surprised the public when he started the nation address a few minutes after 10 p.m. of Tuesday.

In his speech, Duterte offered his gratitude to the frontliners of the pandemic. He also assured them that they would have the government’s support, weeks after failing to mention them in his past speeches.

Duterte also acknowledged the medical professionals who lost their lives due to the coronavirus and called them “heroes.”

Last weekend, three doctors succumbed to COVID-19 while serving Filipinos amid the pandemic. One of them was reportedly in his 30s.

Aside from the healthworkers, Duterte expressed gratitude to different sectors such as the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, workers providing essential needs to the public and volunteers and efforts of the private sector, among others.

He also lauded the supposed initiatives of the House of Representatives and the Senate in crafting a bill that would give him additional powers to address the COVID-19 through the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act. He later on signed this act into law.

Duterte also assured the Filipinos that the government will provide them enough food, water and other essentials while those in the marginalized sector will supposedly receive financial assistance.

Lack of ‘concrete plans’

Duterte generally stuck to his script but some Filipinos observed that he failed to mention concrete plans on addressing the outbreak.

Unlike his past national addresses where he mostly rambled, the latest national address was almost devoid of ad-libs and spontaneous remarks irrelevant to the speech which caught the local online community off-guard.

Looks like someone told Duterte to just read what to say. No side comments, no cursing. Also, he was on time,” a Twitter user said.

Award-winning director Kip Oebanda similarly noticed that the chief executive managed to stick to his prepared script and was able to deliver a “concise” address.

“In fairness, that’s probably the best Duterte Covid-19 press con so far. Mainly because it was short and concise. Didn’t veer off-script so much,” he wrote.

There were others, however, who were not satisfied with Duterte’s latest briefing and pointed out that it lacked concrete plans on how the government will address the COVID-19 outbreak amid the rising cases, reports of shortage in protective suits and frontliners dying.

“Pang ilang speech na ba ‘to ni Duterte tungkol sa Covid? Daming ebas (sabi) netong eh wala namang concrete plans. Walang malinaw na guidelines. Imbis na mapatanag mga tao lalo lang pinapakaba,” a Filipino said.

“Pang ilang presscon na yan ni Pres. Duterte, wala pa ring matinong plano. Pls lang, we don’t need your motivational speech now. WE NEED REAL SOLUTIONS,” another Twitter user said.

“Will say tho, while Duterte’s speech was better in comparison to past speeches, that isn’t really saying much,” wrote another online user.

Duterte’s past COVID-19 speeches were also criticized because he acknowledged Chinese President Xi Jinping and failed to mention medical workers who are in the frontlines of the pandemic.

His briefings have also been juxtaposed against the addresses of Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong ever since he significantly changed his tone after the city-state leader released a video to the Singaporeans.

Duterte initially addressed the COVID-19 outbreak in February, several days after the Philippines had its first confirmed case.

Filipinos anticipated his address but he only defended China and quipped that he wanted to slap the virus which he called an “idiot.”

“Hinahanap ko, gusto ko sampalin ang g*go,” Duterte said before.

He has so far placed the entire region of Luzon under an enhanced community quarantine in a bid to contain the spread of the deadly pathogen by restricting movement and urging Filipinos to be on strict home quarantine.

Duterte also urged Congress to grant him additional powers in addressing the COVID-19 outbreak in the country through the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act.

Panelo said that the measure would supposedly give the chief executive powers “necessary” to carry out urgent measures by the administration “to implement the national emergency.”

Under the newly signed law, Duterte is given the authority “to reallocate government savings to coronavirus-related programs, control private businesses under special circumstances, and grant exemptions from procurement laws.”