Tracking the President

Screengrab from the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s PressReader.

WHERE IS the president? This question has come up often enough when journalists covering the president have nothing to report, and have no idea where he might be — not just for a day or two, but for as long as seven days.

CMFR cheers the Philippine Daily Inquirer for keeping track of President Rodrigo Duterte’s public appearances, monitoring as well the periods when the public did not know his whereabouts (described as “downtimes”) during his third year in office. The informative graphics made it easy for the public to analyze the data.

As part of the newspaper’s preparation for the State of the Nation Address, the Inquirer published on July 21 “Du30’s third year: more private weekends, fewer functions.”

The Inquirer found that:

  • From July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019, the president showed up in 421 events. This was fewer than his record in previous years (753 in 2016-2017 and 493 in 2017-2018).
  • While the president had more one-day work weekends, he also had more weekends completely off, compared to his first and second year in office.
  • The president recorded his longest absence so far from May 13 to 19, during which time rumors that he had suffered a heart attack swirled in social media.
  • Between June 2016 and June 2019, the president spent more than 400 days without being in a public event.

The report stopped short of providing further analysis, but did note that his more frequent absences have fueled speculations about his health. This focus is most welcome, as media should raise awareness about the significant decline in the president’s visibility. His absence from office for whatever reason is a negative sign of his capacity to undertake the responsibilities of his office and is rightfully a matter of public concern. (See previous monitor: “Spin Doctors In, Medical Doctors Out: The Duterte Health Watch”)