ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte capped a jam-packed day in Zamboanga Peninsula with a visit to soldiers wounded in clashes with the Abu Sayyaf.
Camp Navarro General Hospital in Zamboanga City was abuzz with excited voices and the sound of smartphone cameras clicking away on Thursday night, July 21, because of the arrival of a special guest.
The Philippine president could be seen walking between patients' beds in one of the hospital's rooms. Not least excited were the patients themselves. Some of them could not resist whipping out their own smartphones to take photos of their unexpected visitor.
Duterte made it clear he wanted to honor every selfie request of these patients. The 16 soldiers in the room were recuperating from injuries sustained in encounters in Sulu and Basilan – known bastions of the Abu Sayyaf.
In full view of media, Duterte talked to each of the patients and even sat on some of their beds for a more intimate chat.
He seemed to ask about their injuries. For one patient, Duterte balled his fist and instructed the soldier to make a fist as well and squeeze his hand – as if to test the strength of recovering fingers.
When one patient attempted to sit up as Duterte drew near, the president pushed his head back onto the pillow.
Each bedside conversation usually ended with a shake of hands, a salute from Duterte, and the handing of a brown envelope to the recovering soldier.
Media were told that Duterte had been asked to confer the Wounded Personnel Medal to 3 of the soldiers: Jose Duyogan, Michael Esic, and Sherwin Leonard Baradero.
After the hospital visit, Duterte flew to his hometown, Davao City. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.