DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 19 May) – President Rodrigo Duterte is back in Malacanang after a three-day visit to his “comfort zone” — Davao City — where he served as OIC vice mayor, mayor for seven terms, Representative of the 1st District and Vice Mayor between 1986 and 2016.
Duterte came home in the early hours of Saturday, May 16, after 67 days of being locked down in Metro Manila, according to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.
It was Day 1of the city under General Community Quarantine (GCQ) after eight weeks of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and previous to that, 20 days under community quarantine.
In an interview over DZBB on Saturday, Roque said he anticipated the President’s homecoming would be an issue. In Filipino, he said: “I know it will be an issue but let us not forget that what the President did in returning to Davao is not just to visit after 67 days but because he is also President. He has to know what is happening in Mindanao because the entire Mindanao is now returning to normal. So you cannot take that away from the President’s duty.”
In her radio broadcast on Monday afternoon, Mayor Sara Duterte told a reporter who asked what the President’s itinerary was in Davao City or Mindanao aside from reuniting with his family, to ask Roque nstead.
Clearing her throat before responding, the mayor said: “It is best kung pangutan-on ninyo ang Office of the President and Presidential Spokesperson about kuan, iyang lakaw and then kadtong reuniting with family I think second family ang buot pasabot ana dili first family” (It is best if you ask the Office of the President and Presidential Spokesperson about his activities. and then about reuniting with family, I think they meant second family, not first family”
Sara is the second of three children and the only daughter of President Duterte with his former wife Elizabeth Zimmerman. The couple separated two decades ago and the President’s partner now is Honeylet Avancena, with whom he has a daughter, Veronica, nicknamed Kitty.
Asked on Tuesday morning if the President was back in Malacanang, Roque told MindaNews he arrived at 11 p.m. on Monday.
Asked what the President’s Davao and Mindanao activities were during his three-day stay, Roque replied: “Haven’t talked to him. Mamaya pa” (Later).
Longest time in Metro Manila
Duterte’s 67-day stay in Malacanang, Roque told Manila-based radio station DZBB on Saturday, is the longest time Duterte spent in Metro Manila since his student days there.
Duterte finished law at the San Beda College in Manila in 1972, immediately returned to Davao City when he passed the bar and has been President for nearly four years but in all those years, he would fly home to this city every weekend, unless he is on travel abroad.
“My comfort zone,” he would often say.
Roque said Duterte flew home with Senator Christopher Lawrence Go, his former Special Assistant who continues to be beside or behind him in government and private functions. He added that the President would be in Davao City “sandali lang po, sandali lang po” (just for a while, just for while) as he has a scheduled meeting in Malacanang on Tuesday.
President Rodrigo Duterte on April 16 said being under lockdown felt like being in Bilibid, the national penitentiary. He said he wanted to fly to Davao but his daughter-mayor would not allow him to land.
“Pinayagan naman po siyang umuwi ni Mayor Sara matapos pong magkaroon ng GCQ sa Davao City” (Mayor Sara Duterte allowed him to go home when Davao City shifted to GCQ), Roque said on Saturday.
But even without seeking the approval of his daughter-mayor, Section 7 on the Guidelines on Interzonal and Intrazonal Movement under the May 15, 2020 Omnibus Guidelines of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, provides that “government officials and government frontline personnel” are among those permitted to move “within and across areas placed under any form of community quarantine.”
“Returning Resident Procedure”
MindaNews asked Mayor Duterte on Monday afternoon, through the anchor of Davao City Disaster Radio, that while the guidelines allow government officials intra and inter-zonal travel, in relation to her April 30 memorandum on “Returning Resident Procedure,” was this observed or was the President exempted?
In her response, the mayor did not touch on the April 30 memo but said the President is “allowed to move around the country not just Davao City” and read the provision under Section 7 of the Omnibus Guidelines.
“Wala nay mas frontliner pa sa atuang tanan sa Presidente sa atuang nasud” (He is the frontliner among all of us in the country), she said.
She also added that the flight ban exempts government flights to and from Davao City, citing as examples the government-paid sweeper flights that transported stranded passengers.
Mayor Duterte has a memorandum on “Returning Resident Procedure” issued on April 30 and addressed to City Health Officer Josephine Villanueva, and district health officers, outlining 12 items “for strict compliance.”
The mayor’s memo said that in view of the return of Davao City residents stranded outside the city, the City Health Office (CHO) and all District Health Offices (DHO) are advised to “strictly abide by the …. procedure to ensure that all returning residents are properly screened and monitored.”
According to the outlined procedure, returning residents must fill out a contact tracing form and must sign waiver and undertaking; the CHO will issue him/her a Symptom Screening Card, conduct a Symptom Screening, and conduct a Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT).
If the returning resident is symptomatic, he/she will be sent to the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) for swabbing and SPMC will assign in which quarantine facility the resident will be brought to.
If Positive in the RDT but asymptomatic, he/she will be sent to SPMC for swabbing and put in Emcor facility.
If Negative in the RDT but asymptomatic, he/she will be sent to home quarantine with symptom screening card. His/her left index finger will be marked with indelible ink.
The CHO is mandated to include in the Contact Tracing Form (CTF) the result of the RDT test. It is also tasked to collect all CTFs, create database, inform the DHO of the name and address of individual under Home Quarantine.
In turn, the DHO will inform the Barangay Captain of the name and address of individual under Home Quarantine and Barangay Captain will assign a Barangay Health Worker to monitor the person using the Symptom Screening Card.
The DHO is also tasked to send the individual to SPMC if symptoms develop within 14 days. It is also mandated to inform the CHO of the name and address of cleared individual if without symptoms after 14 days and the CHO will label the individual “cleared” in the database.
DZBB’s Tuesday Niu asked Roque on Saturday if the President went through safety protocols upon arrival at the Davao City airport and if the President was required to undergo that.
Roque replied, in Filipino: “the President is on continuous quarantine. Even if we are in a meeting with him, he is isolated, far from us. So the Presidential Security Group is really looking after him and caring for him.”
In his Monday noon briefing, Roque was asked when the President was returning to Malacanang. In the evening, he replied.
Without being asked, Roque added, again in Filipino: “Well, I got word that as of yesterday (Sunday), he had not seen his grandchildren. So you know the President, he is not just President of Luzon, he is President of the entire country. He stayed here in Luzon for 67 days because Luzon has the highest number of cases of COVID-19 so he stayed here to show he is one with the people.”
Roque added: “But the President also needs to know what is happening in the other parts of the Philippines like Mindanao where he comes from. That’s why as of yesterday, I was surprised that he had not seen his grandchildren. He probably checked first on what was happening not only in Davao but also in the entire Mindanao.”
A collage of photographs posted on Facebook on Saturday afternoon captioned “Welcome home our beloved President dada Gongdi. He’s busy bonding with his apos, except his photog Dodong buang. Salute!!” went viral with at least 33,000 shares as of Tuesday. However, the photos posted by one who calls himself Kurt Duterte, were old photographs of Duterte with his grandchildren.
When another reporter asked why the President visited Davao which is under GCQ but not areas like Cebu which are under ECQ and Samar which was hard hit by Tyhoon Ambo, Roque replied: “the fact na vulnerable person din ang Presidente kaya umiiwas siya sa mga mataas na cases ‘no, sa GCQ siya nagpunta” (the fact that the President is a vulnerable person, that’s why he avoided areas with high cases).
Duterte, who has co-morbidities, turned 75 on March 28 during the lockdown.
Davao City has the most number of cases in the Davao region and in the entire Mindanao. Out of 215 cases in the Davao region as of 5 p.m. on May 18, Davao City topped with 193 or 89.8%.
Out of 420 cases across Mindanao’s 27 provinces and 33 cities, Davao City accounted for 193 or 45.95%, followed by Zamboanga City with 147. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)