More than 100 Chinese nationals from Wuhan entered the Philippines while the Chinese city, the epidemic’s epicenter, was under lock down, prompting a nationwide outcry among Filipinos.
Those health concerns reached fever pitch after the Philippines reported the first corona-virus death outside of China on February 1, 2020.
Duterte’s administration initially came under sharp criticism for a perceived as lax response that arguably prioritized diplomatic relations with Beijing over the general public’s health and protection from the lethal and fast-spreading disease.
Some critics suggest Duterte’s failing health has led to poor political judgement.
To the chagrin of many, Duterte was filmed enjoying an evening bike ride at the height of the recent volcanic eruption at Taal, which led to the displacement of tens of thousands of Filipinos in Metro Manila’s outskirts.
The Filipino president has openly acknowledged he suffers from various health conditions, ranging from Buerger’s disease, a rare disease of the veins and arteries, and myasthenia gravis, a long-term muscular disease.
He has also admitted to struggling in the past with addiction to prescription pain killers, which he reportedly started using after suffering a back injury in a motorcycle injury.
Revelations of his addiction came in stark – and some say hypocritical contrast – to his lethal anti-drug campaign, which since 2016 has killed thousands of drug users and suspects.
Duterte’s top officials have consistently played down the impact health issues have had on his ability to competently and coherently rule.
They have political motivation to do so: under the Philippine Constitution the vice-president automatically takes over leadership duties if the president is incapacitated.
In the Philippines’ unique democracy, the vice-presidency is often, including currently, occupied by a top opposition member. Vice President Leni Robredo, a lawyer and former social activist, is among Duterte’s most vocal and compelling critics.
This week, the government implemented what many saw as a belated travel ban on anyone who has been in China in the last 14 days, even if from territories outside Greater China, including Hong Kong and Macau.
The Philippine Bureau of Quarantine also cleared massive arrival of Chinese citizens via cruise ships despite popular backlash among nearby communities including in Subic.
Asia Times / ABC Flash Point News 2020.