MANILA, Philippines – Almost two months after his last press conference with private media, President Rodrigo Duterte finally took questions from journalists on Monday, August 1.
Reporters were taken by surprise when Duterte, after leading the oath-taking of government appointees in Malacañang Palace, stepped off the stage, walked to the middle of the room, and said he was ready to take their questions.
Reporters from a variety of Philippine local news groups lost no time in crowding around the President and directing their cameras and audio recorders at him.
After giving a statement on contractualization and his defense of Environment Secretary Gina Lopez, Duterte gamely answered questions from private media, something he has not done since June 2.
June 2 was the night Duterte, then still president-elect, was asked about his whistling at a GMA-7 female reporter and his reaction to calls that Philippine media boycott his controversial press conferences.
The next day, Duterte's staff said he decided to no longer give any press conferences to lessen chances of his statements being misinterpreted.
In the coming days and weeks, Duterte himself would, in various speeches, refer to his "boycott of media," even saying he would not take any questions from journalists "until the end of my term."
On Monday, same as during his famous late-night press conferences, Duterte was alternately intense and irreverent, mixing policy statements with deftly delivered jokes and teasing.
The last-minute press conference lasted around 30 minutes. Like before, Duterte seemed to want to talk the whole afternoon. Journalists said "thank you" twice to indicate the end of the press conference before Duterte finally gave his last statements.
Reporters, some of whom had never directly interacted with him before that day, rushed to take their photos with the President.
Before the apparent thawing out between Duterte and private media on Monday, journalists were also able to get much nearer to him during his visit to the wake of a slain militiaman in Davao del Norte.