Duterte skipped ASEAN events to take ‘power naps’ – Malacañang

Pia Ranada
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will also not attend the gala dinner in order to 'rest,' says Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo

CATCHING UP ON SLEEP. President Rodrigo Duterte chats with members of his Cabinet upon his arrival at a hotel in Singapore on November 12, 2018. Malacañang photo

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was absent from 4 major gatherings with other leaders in Singapore because he had to take “power naps.”

This was Malacañang’s explanation for Duterte’s non-appearance in 4 events at the 33rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and Related Summits on Wednesday, November 14.

“He took power naps to catch [up] on sleep,” said Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo in a statement sent on Wednesday night.

By the time Panelo sent his statement, Duterte had missed these 4 events:

  • ASEAN-Australia Informal Breakfast Summit
  • ASEAN-Korea Summit
  • Working lunch hosted by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong
  • Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Summit

Duterte is set to miss yet another event. According to Panelo, the Philippine President will not be attending the gala dinner on Wednesday night.

“PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) will also not attend the gala dinner scheduled tonight and will instead rest,” said Panelo.

To explain Duterte’s need for “power naps,” the spokesman spoke of the President’s long Tuesday night.

“Last night, the President worked late and had only less than 3 hours of sleep. It is unfortunate that the first event scheduled today was at 8:30 am,” he said. 

Duterte is known to be a late sleeper who also typically starts his day late, usually after lunch.

Panelo said Duterte’s absence from the Wednesday ASEAN events is not connected to his state of health.

“We assure the nation that his aforementioned absence has nothing to do with his physical health and well-being which have been the subject of speculation. The President’s constantly punishing work schedule is proof that he is in top physical shape,” said Panelo.

The spokesman even said he found it “amusing” that “some quarters” appear to be “making a big fuss” of Duterte’s non-appearances.

What Duterte did that day

While he may have skipped some events, Malacañang listed the activities Duterte was able to attend.

The President made it to 3 events on Wednesday: the ASEAN-China Summit, ASEAN-Russia Summit, and ASEAN-Japan Summit.

At the ASEAN-China Summit, he delivered the ASEAN-China Common Statement since the Philippines is the country coordinator for dialogues between the region and Beijing.

Panelo also said Duterte witnessed the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Economic Cooperation between the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) and ASEAN.

Duterte also held a bilateral meeting with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee on shared concerns.

On Thursday, November 15, the President is set to attend the rest of the events and have a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, according to Panelo.

A pattern

Duterte’s non-appearance in some of Wednesday’s events is a repetition of similar behavior in previous international conferences.

In past ASEAN and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summits, Duterte had also skipped one or two events.

Here’s a list of other events at past international gatherings he has missed:

  • APEC gala dinner in Vietnam (November 2017)
  • Two summits in Laos: the ASEAN-US and ASEAN-India summits (September 2016)
  • Photo-op of ASEAN leaders with US President Barack Obama, also in Laos (September 2016)
  • APEC family photo in Peru (November 2016)
  • APEC Economic Leaders’ Retreat “where heads of state divide themselves into smaller groups” and they can “freely discuss among themselves” (November 2016)
  • APEC gala dinner hosted by Peru President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (November 2016)

Duterte did not miss events during the ASEAN Summit in 2017 since that year, the Philippines was the host. Organizers then had said, as ASEAN chairman, Duterte could not be absent at any of the activities. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.