Cabinet officials to physically distance themselves from Duterte in Cabinet meetings

Published March 16, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Argyll Cyrus Geducos 

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Cabinet members will distance themselves from President Duterte in Cabinet meetings as the Presidential Security Group (PSG) said they will now strictly implement the no-touch policy on the Chief Executive.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN)
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo

In his Monday press briefing, the mask-wearing Panelo said they will be sitting at least six meters away from the President during their meetings to protect him from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“Kami na mismo lalayo na kami for his security and safety (We will distance ourselves from him for his security and safety),” he said.

“We should be six meters away from the President during the meeting,” he added.

President Duterte earlier said he will not follow the protocols established by the PSG to keep him safe from the disease. In a meeting early this month, President Duterte was seen shaking the hands of Cabinet members despite the measures being implemented by the PSG.

However, Panelo said Monday if the Cabinet members would be sitting far from the President, it was unlikely for Duterte to approach them just to shake their hand.

“Si Presidente pag pupunta sa upuan niya, dadaanan niya, kumakamay siya. Pero kung ganyan kalayo, diretso siya sa upuan niya, wala ‘yun (If he will pass by you on his way to his seat, then he will shake your hand. But if you’re far from him, he will go straight to his seat),” he said.

Malacañang reported Sunday that President Duterte’s Cabinet members have tested negative for COVID-19. These include Executive Salvador Medialdea, Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade, and Public Works Secretary Mark Villar.

PSG commander Col. Jesus Durante III was also announced to be free of the virus.

However, Panelo said the Cabinet members, despite testing negative for COVID-19, will continue with their self-quarantine.

“They will also take precautionary measures in accordance with the protocols set by the DOH, while working pursuant to the respective mandates of their office,” he said in a statement Sunday.

President Duterte himself underwent testing for COVID-19 Thursday prior his announcement placing Metro Manila under community quarantine for 30 days. On Friday, Panelo confirmed that Duterte’s results came out negative.