Duterte skips Independence Day rites at Rizal Park
President Rodrigo Duterte skipped on Monday the flag-raising and wreath-laying ceremonies at Rizal Park in Manila for the celebration of 119th anniversary declaration of Philippine independence.
Duterte was instead represented by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, who said the president was still "tired" why he was not able to attend the Independence Day rites.
This was supposedly the first time Duterte would have led the Independence Day ceremonies since he assumed office on June 30 last year.
Vice President Leni Robredo, who was present in the ceremony, led the wreath-laying at the monument of Dr. Jose Rizal, the Philippine national hero.
"You know, the president has been working 24/7, meeting the troops, meeting the commanders and then late last night, visiting the wounded and those who died. So that's why this morning, he didn't feel that well," he told reporters after the ceremonies.
But he assured there was nothing to worry about Duterte's health.
On Sunday, Duterte visited the wounded soldiers in Cagayan de Oro and then flew to Manila where he led the transfer of the remains of the eight fallen soldiers at Villamor Air Base in Pasay City. He was in Pasay until late Sunday night.
The president condoled with the bereaved families and then proceeded to the Libingan ng mga Bayani where he joined the funeral of the slain soldiers who fought the Islamic State-linked Maute Terror Group in Marawi City.
Cayetano said he received a call from Malacanang early Monday, asking him to represent the President in the event at Rizal Park.
Simultaneous flag raising ceremonies were held in war-torn Marawi City, and Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, Cavite where the Philippine independence from the Spaniards was declared on June 12, 1898, among others. The Philippine military and civilian divers also planted flag on Philippine Rise, formerly Benham Rise, a 13-million hectare under sea region east of Luzon.
Duterte has also cancelled the traditional Independence Day vin d'honneur because he has to attend to Mindanao matters, his spokesman earlier said.
Cayetano said Duterte "doesn't feel like giving a toast," which is part of the vin d'honneur, while there were government troops who perished and displaced civilians due to the Marawi problem.
He said at this time, it is the President's intention to focus, not only in resolving the Marawi situation but also in the whole of Mindanao, which he placed under the state of martial law since May 23 when the Islamic State-linked Maute Terror Group started attacking the city.
As of Sunday, 58 government troopers have been killed, while 191 from the Maute group. Celerina Monte/DMS