FALSE: Duterte warned about coronavirus threat 'at the start'

Claim: In his late evening speech on April 6, President Rodrigo Duterte said he warned Filipinos about the threat of the novel coronavirus “at the start.”

Itong COVID na ito, ito talaga ‘yung tunay na at the start sinabi ko sa inyo bantay kayo dito, bantay tayo, talagang yayariin tayo nitong COVID na ‘to. It might not really cripple a country but it will of course, you know, cause a sadness and fear kung paano tayo makaraos dito,” Duterte said.

(At the start of this COVID-19 I told you to be on guard because this will really mess us up. It might not really cripple a country but it will cause sadness and fear of thinking of ways how we can rise above it.)

Rating: FALSE

The facts: After the first death due to the coronavirus outside China was recorded in the Philippines, Duterte talked to the media and said that "everything is well" in the country, adding that there's "nothing really to be extra scared of that coronavirus thing." (READ: TIMELINE: The novel coronavirus pandemic)

Kagaya ng (Like) SARS, I assure you even without the vaccines it will just die a natural death. Apparently, itong mga ganito, mga virus, ano ‘to HIV, wala – nawala na. Meron, kokonti na lang (viruses like this, like HIV, it’s gone, there are only a few cases now),” Duterte said during a media briefing on February 3.

Duterte continued: "It will die a natural death, ito matatapos rin ito (this too shall pass). Will it worsen in the meantime? Maybe. [But] the progress of medical science now is far different than the yesteryears," Duterte said, downplaying the risk of infection as he rejected the calls to ban the entry of all Chinese to the Philippines. (READ: As coronavirus spreads, Duterte hits 'xenophobia' vs Chinese)

On February 10, Duterte even cursed the virus during his speech in Pasay City, and assured the public that the government can handle the crisis.

“We are prepared to handle this public health emergency, in case the worst scenario happens. Alam mo, kung hindi natin kaya itong putang-inang idioto na corona ito, hinahanap ko eh. Gusto kong sampalin ang gago. (You know, if we can’t defeat this son of a bitch, idiot coronavirus, I’ve been looking for it, I want to slap the idiot.) We are a nation,” Duterte said.

In a separate address on March 9, Duterte also said that “we can defeat” COVID-19 and cursed the virus again. He announced new confirmed cases that night, bringing the country’s total confirmed cases to 24 then.

“Well, we have the money to combat itong COVID-19 na ito (this COVID-19). I assure you we have the money and we can defeat that – 'tang-inang virus na ‘yan. Saan ba nakatira ‘yan? (Son of a bitch virus. Where does it live?) We can defeat it,” Duterte said during the press conference.

Duterte has been criticized since late January for being slow to act on the coronavirus threat compared to other countries that immediately put in place restrictive measures, as well as informed their citizens properly. (READ: The coronavirus threat: Lessons from other countries)

As of late Wednesday, April 8, the Philippines has 3,870 confirmed cases and 182 deaths due to the coronavirus. A total of 96 patients have recovered. – Rappler.com

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