RICHARD MADELO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Addressing the nation on Thursday, President Rodrigo Duterte said he wanted to swim with victims of typhoon “Ulysses” but was told to prioritize his safety.

“Gusto kong lumabas, gusto kong lumangoy. Matagal na ako hindi naligo e. Kaya lang ayaw nitong mga sundalo. Sila ang ayaw gustong maligo ibig sabihin,” he said in a televised address.

The hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo trended on Twitter as netizens took note of Duterte’s lack of public presence during the Thursday morning onslaught of “Ulysses.”

Duterte, who also attended a virtual summit of Southeast Asian leaders, said he did not prefer to be distanced from the typhoon victims.

“Well, anyway, that is the fortune of our lives. We want to be of help. We want to be near and we want to share the grief and we want to share the agony,” he said.

He claimed he tried to convince his aides by saying Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo could take over in case he got injured.

“It’s not that I am at a distance from you na may distansya ako ngayon sa inyo. Gusto kong pumunta doon, makipaglangoy nga sa inyo. Ang problema pinipigilan ako kasi raw ‘pag namatay ako, isa lang ang presidente,” he said.

“Sabi ko: ‘Eh may Vice President naman.’ Ah wala naman silang sinasagot. Nagtitinginan lang sila tapos, ‘Hindi, hindi ka puwedeng mamatay nitong panahon na ito. Kung malunod ka, malulunod kaming lahat na ‘yung nagtatrabaho sa iyo,'” he added.

“Ulysses,” the 21st cyclone to hit the country this year, came just weeks after super typhoon “Rolly” ravaged the Philippines.

In its 5 p.m. bulletin, weather bureau Pagasa said moderate to heavy rains would persist until Thursday night over Cordillera Administrative Region, the eastern portions of Cagayan and Isabela, Zambales, Bataan, Aurora, Cavite, the western portion of Batangas and Occidental Mindoro including Lubang Island. John Ezekiel J. Hirro