Enraged netizens wondered about President Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s whereabouts after Severe Tropical Storm Paeng (international name Nalgae) ravaged the country, leaving at least 98 reported dead and displacing nearly 1 million people.
The hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo (#WhereIsThePresident) topped social media trends anew amid the rising death toll. Some speculated that Marcos Jr had been out of the country when the storm hit after videos on social media surfaced showed the presidential car headed to the Skyway on Friday night, which connects to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Expressway (NAIAX).
Speculations further rose when Marcos Jr joined the disaster risk management council’s briefing on Saturday via Zoom.
However, those allegations were seemingly refuted in a statement by the Office of the Press Secretary, who simply said that the president was “not in Japan,” referring to earlier rumors that Marcos Jr spent the weekend there with family, but did not offer any more details.
Soon after, photos of the president dining at a local eatery in Laoag, Ilocos Norte, on Sunday made the rounds online.
Still, this did not quell the ire of Filipinos who believe that the president should be more proactive in acting to mitigate the disaster and should be more visible than ever during these times.
Others called out Marcos and Vice President Sara Duterte for being absentee officials, the latter of whom released a statement wishing “thoughts and prayers” for the victims of the tropical storm.
“‘Thoughts & prayers’ don’t change the fact 98 people are dead, countless are missing while close to 1.8M folks are displaced on your watch. Your food trucks weren’t there. We didn’t see your ‘aerial inspection’ default action,” Twitter user Tagapagmulat wrote.
Journalist Philip Lustre Jr. also said that, as president and vice president, both officials must be present at all times.
Another twitter user used the viral Spirit Halloween costume meme to comment on the absentee president.
According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), most of the deaths, injuries and missing persons were reported in the Bicol region, Western Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Soccsksargen, and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).