As Super Typhoon Rolly (Goni) battered the Philippines on Sunday, November 1, President Rodrigo Duterte was missing from the first high-level public briefing on the world's strongest tropical cyclone this year.
Duterte's longtime aide Senator Bong Go said on Saturday, October 31, that the former Davao City mayor was monitoring Rolly from Mindanao. As Sunday's briefing began, however, there was no indication Duterte was joining it even through videoconferencing.
It was Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque who moderated the 10 am briefing that was aired live from the headquarters of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) in Quezon City.
According to the NDRRMC, officials physically present at the meeting were Roque, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Social Welfare Secretary Felicisimo Budiongan, NDRRMC Executive Director Ricardo Jalad, Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, and Philippine National Police chief General Camilo Cascolan.
The briefing took place more than 5 hours after Rolly first made landfall in Bato, Catanduanes, at 4:50 am. By the time the Cabinet officials met, the super typhoon had made a second landfall in Tiwi, Albay, at about 7:20 am.
The Philippines' capital region, Metro Manila, was by then under Signal No. 4 .
Frustrated by the President's absence, Filipinos took to social media to air their sentiments on the President’s absence making the hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo trend on Sunday morning.
Duterte's critics contrasted him with his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, who – though blasted for his overall response to Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in November 2013 – had at least briefed the public through a televised speech the night before Yolanda made landfall.
Read some of the tweets and memes using the #NasaanAngPangulo hashtag below:
With Super Typhoon Rolly reported as the strongest tropical cyclone in the world for 2020, Filipinos expected Duterte to give detailed updates on the government's preparedness and respond plan, especially as the storm was talking place during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said in a bulletin released past 8 am that Rolly is moving west at the same speed of 25 km/h, after hitting the municipality of Tiwi, Albay.
The super typhoon maintained its maximum sustained winds of 225 km/h, but its gustiness increased from 280 km/h to 310 km/h. It is so far the world's strongest tropical cyclone for 2020. – Rappler.com