Duterte refuses to be ‘untouchable,’ defies PSG protocol

By Argyll Geducos

President Duterte has defied the "no-touch" policy implemented by the Presidential Security Group (PSG) to protect him from coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19).

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers his speech following the oath-taking ceremony of newly appointed officials at the Malacañan Palace on September 17, 2019. (TOTO LOZANO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN) President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (TOTO LOZANO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Duterte made the statement after he was seen shaking the hands of those present at the Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF) meeting In Malacanang despite the PSG's new protocol Monday evening.

In a press conference after the meeting, Duterte said he will not follow the measures being implemented by the PSG, noting that he was not afraid to die.

"Sinasabi ko sa iyo na kung tawagin na ako ng Diyos ngayong oras na ito, pupunta na ako (I am telling you if God calls me now, I will go to Him)," he told reporters Monday evening.

"Tapos na ako. Naging presidente na ako, pinakamataas na maabot ng isang tao. Mga anak ko okay na (I'm done. I'm already president, the highest any person can reach. My children are fine as well)," he added.

The PSG announced Monday that it will strictly implement the "no-touch" policy on President Duterte as a preventive measure to ensure his and his family's safety amid the COVID-19 threat.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo likewise said Duterte will follow the measures implemented by the PSG because it was for his own safety.

Meanwhile, Duterte said he cannot follow the advice of his common-law wife Honeylet Avanceña to avoid big crowds following the local transmission of COVID-19.

In a text message, Avanceña said her advice for the Chief Executive was to avoid big crowds for the time being, adding that "an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure."

However, Duterte explained that he cannot give in to the his partner's request because he is the president. He said he has plans to go to Mindanao to visit the wake of fallen soldiers.

"Trabaho ko 'yan, eh. I cannot... Pwera na lang kung ‘yung mga participants nila matapang (That's my job so I cannot avoid crowded places. Unless the participants there are brave enough)," he said.

"I will not decline invitations. I will shake hands with everybody. I am going to Mindanao to visit my dead soldiers if I can stay there, and to congratulate my warriors," he added.

The PSG earlier said large crowd gatherings with President Duterte as the guest of honor and speaker shall be assessed and could be canceled, not only for his safety but also for that of the attendees.

Read more: PSG implements ‘no-touch’ policy to keep Duterte safe from COVID-19