After “resting” for five days, President Rodrigo Duterte made his first public appearance on Saturday when he visited Agusan del Norte and delivered back-to-back speeches.
Duterte graced the 50th founding anniversary of Agusan del Norte held at the University of Cabadbaran where he delivered a speech at around 4:30 p.m.
The President then proceeded to Barangay Bancasi, Butuan City to meet troops of the 4th Infantry Division.
In his speech, Duterte explained that he was out of public sight for almost a week because he was “extremely tired.”
Duterte, 72, was last seen in public at Villamor Air Base in Pasay City on June 11, where he honored eight of the 13 Marines killed in Marawi City.
He failed to lead the 119th Independence Day rites in Rizal Park the following day. Yesterday, Duterte did not directly answer speculations on his health.
“My last examination was last year. My state of health is what you see is what you get,” he told reporters in Butuan City.
“You must learn from Davao media. I do not need anybody to ask where I am going. If you do not see me for five days, you speculate, he must be dead, so you swear in Robredo. What is your problem? We have a vice president,” he added.
Speaking before troops in Butuan City, the President defended the military amid claims of intelligence failure on the Maute Group’s attack in Marawi City.
“It was not a question of the failure on the part of the government because we have adopted a soft policy towards rebels,” the President said.
He admitted that the government “took for granted” the entry of firearms in Marawi.
“The Maute [terrorists]were bringing the firearms surreptitiously at hindi natin nakuha na gaano na karami ang ammo pati baril sa loob (and we were not able to monitor how many guns and ammunition were being brought in). It was not a failure of intelligence,” Duterte said.
The President said some local politicians helped in the stockpiling of firearms. This is the reason why the terrorists appeared to have an endless supply of firearms when they started battling government troops.
“The Maute, the connivance of the politicians there, warlords, were stockpiling [arms]” Duterte said.
This, he stressed, was one of the reasons why he declared martial law in Mindanao.
“So the fighting is going on but of course, it’s winding up, but at the cost of many soldiers also. And that is the danger of Maute and ISIS. You should watch out. They have so corrupted the name of God to kill many innocent persons and to destroy for nothing,” he said.
During the oral arguments on petitions seeking to nullify the declaration of martial law in Mindanao, Supreme Court Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo said the military had a “total” failure of intelligence on Marawi siege.
Duterte slammed the justices for questioning his decision to declare martial law.
“The terrorists are committing rebellion. What do you want? That they devour half of Mindanao before we call it a true blue rebellion? It’s crazy,” he said.
But the President said he will abide by the High Court’s ruling if it decides to declare his martial law decree unconstitutional.
“Kung ayaw nila, okay ako (If they don’t want it, that’s okay with me). Sabihin nila na (If they say) there is no factual basis then I am ready to order the military to withdraw and we will not move,” he added.
The President however said he would be forced to declare another martial law if “rebellion burns Mindanao and the other parts of the Philippines.”
“This time I will do it on my own to preserve the nation,” he said. “I will not consult anybody and there is no telling when it will end.”