MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte will not heed the “no touch policy” recommended by the Presidential Security Group (PSG) to minimize his exposure to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
In a press briefing in Malacañang late Monday night, Duterte said he found the protocol “foolish” since he still prefers to shake hands with persons he would run into in public engagements.
“Kalokohan ‘yang protocol-protocol. I will shake hands sa… Anak, ang akin bang sinasabi na sa iyo na kung pata — kung tawagin na ako ng Diyos ngayon oras na ito, pupunta na ako. Tapos na ako (Those protocols are foolish. I will shake hands. I tell you, if God will call me at this very moment, I’ll go. I’m done),” he said.
He said he was ready to go anytime because he has already achieved holding the highest position in the country.
His remark comes after Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said he will heed the advice of the PSG.
Before the start of the meeting with members of Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Infectious Diseases on the same day, Duterte was spotted shaking hands with some Cabinet officials despite the PSG’s no-touch policy.
He also bussed Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat on the cheek.
“I will shake hands with everybody. I am going to Mindanao to visit my dead soldiers if I — if they are still there — and to congratulate my warriors,” he said.
Despite the PSG’s decision to assess or even cancel some of his public engagements, Duterte said he would disregard this because showing up was part of his job.
“Eh trabaho ko ‘yan eh. Cannot. Pwera na lang kung ‘yang mga participants nila matakot (It’s my job. I cannot cancel engagements. Unless the participants themselves are scared),” he said.
He said that he would not decline any invitations.
Earlier, PSG Commander Army Col. Jesus Durante said the PSG would “thoroughly” screen personalities — including PSG personnel, politicians and dignitaries — expected to get near the President especially during meetings and events.
The PSG will also assess whether or not to cancel large crowd gatherings with the President as the guest of honor and speaker for his safety and the safety of attendees, he added.
Besides the PSG, Duterte’s partner Honeylet Avanceña, a nurse, has also advised him to avoid large crowds.
As an added precautionary measure against Covid-19, she said he will regularly take multivitamins to boost his immune system.
“Madali siya painumin ng vitamins. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure,” she said in a message to reporters.
Currently, there are 24 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the Philippines.
Duterte has issued a proclamation declaring a state of public health emergency throughout the Philippines after the health department reported the first known local transmission of the deadly disease.
He also ordered a suspension of classes in all levels in the National Capital Region (NCR) from March 10 to 14 as a precautionary measure to ensure the safety of students. (PNA)