MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte was supposed to lead the country’s 191st Independence Day at the Rizal Park in Manila Monday. But the chief executive was nowhere to be found.
Department of Foreign Affairs chief Alan Peter Cayetano told reporters the President had skipped the early morning event because he lacked enough sleep after his visit Sunday night to the wake of the Marines slain from the clashes in Marawi City.
“I talked to his people and inquired sabi [they said] no problem. He’s okay but tired and doesn’t feel that well so better to rest,” Cayetano said.
Later in the day, Cayetano told reporters the President would not also attend the Parada ng Kalayaan event at the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta, which would be held Monday afternoon.
Earlier, Duterte led the arrival honors at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City for the eight Marines and approached the fatalities’ relatives to express his sympathies and condolences. The President also extended financial assistance to the families of the fallen soldiers.
In his prepared speech for the Independence Day anniversary, Duterte, who earlier placed Mindanao under martial law amid threats by Islamist militants led by Maute Group to establish an ISIS province in Southern Philippines, urged Filipinos “to pay homage” to the “heroism” of “our forebears” by “preserving our sovereignty and performing our own civic rights and responsibilities.”
“After all, it is our inherent duty as citizens to ensure that the Philippines fulfills its destiny as a great and prosperous nation,” the President added.
The celebration in Luneta, including the flag-raising ceremony and the wreath-laying rite at the Rizal Monument, was led by Vice President Leni Robredo and members of the Cabinet with Cayetano representing Duterte.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, DFA chief Alan Peter Cayetano, and Vice President Leni Robredo during the Independence Day rites at the Rizal Park in Manila. Photo from OVP
In a statement, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno said, “The Judiciary pays homage to all Filipino heroes; draws inspiration from them; reflects with sorrow on the fallen in Marawi; and renews its commitment to the people to defend their freedoms.”
U.S. congratulates PH, honors ‘enduring alliance’
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson said that “on behalf of President Trump and the American people,” the U.S. was congratulating Filipinos in commemorating their Independence Day.
“The United States proudly stands with the Philippines as a longstanding ally, especially as the country confronts challenges associated with terrorism and extremism, including recent attacks in Marawi City and elsewhere,” Tillerson said in a statement.
“We admire the resilience and strength of Filipino people in battling adversity and building a more prosperous and secure future,” he said.
“On this special day, we honor the enduring U.S.-Philippine alliance, built on our shared democratic values, growing commerce, and strong people-to-people ties,” added Tillerson.