Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Friday dismissed demands for President Rodrigo Duterte's presence in times of natural disasters as an opposition gimmick.
Roque said technology allows the chief executive to constantly monitor developments without the need to travel. Duterte also gives instructions to government agencies, he said.
"Hindi po dapat tanungin 'Nasaan ang Pangulo' -- 'yan po ay kalokohan lang ng oposisyon. Ang presidente po ay hindi nawawala, palagi po natin siyang kapiling, palagi po niyang iniisip ang kapakanan ng ating mga kababayan," the spokesman said at a press briefing.
He claimed that the number of casualties in natural disasters that occurred during Duterte's term is lower than that in previous administrations, but added that the government aims to improve its disaster preparedness to achieve zero casualty.
#NasaanAngPangulo was a trending topic on Twitter on Thursday, as Typhoon Ulysses battered several parts of Luzon, bringing strong winds and heavy rains that caused massive flooding.
Duterte addressed the public on Thursday, saying he had just attended the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' (ASEAN) virtual forum. He said the government is ready to respond to Filipinos in need.
The hashtag also trended earlier this month, when Duterte was absent in a televised press briefing on the government's preparation for and response to Super Typhoon Rolly.
When Typhoon Ulysses came, Roque claimed the government response was quick but that the rate at which floodwaters rose was uncontrollable.
"Gaya ng narinig niyo po, mabilis po ang naging response ng government. Unfortunately di po natin magagawan ng paraan ang masyadong mabilis na pagtaas ng tubig," he said at the briefing.
He also said rescue was not "instant."
"Meron pong mga nag-antay, pero unfortunately hindi naman po instant talaga yung ating pag-rescue sa kanila, pero hindi naman po gaanong katagal ang kanilang pag-aantay at ang importante po eh na-rescue po lahat ng kinakailangan na matulungan," he said.
Typhoon Ulysses reminded Luzon residents of 2009's Tropical Storm Ondoy as deep floods drove many to the roof of their homes, calling for rescue.
The military has recorded 39 fatalities as a result of the typhoon, but Roque said only 14 of the deaths have been verified by local government units.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council has claimed it was "not caught flat-footed." --KBK, GMA News