When President Rodrigo Duterte on July 21 said Filipinos could disinfect face masks with gasoline or diesel, it was the second time he broached the idea of turning gasoline into an antiseptic against the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.
The first time he made the suggestion was in his April 6 recorded message.
The president said at the time it would have been easier to beat the COVID-19 virus if it only lived in the hands because, he explained, a person only had to dip his hands into a drum of gasoline to kill the virus.
Sabi ko nga kung ano lang, kamay-kamay lang walang problema ‘yan. Maglagay ka lang ng drum diyan, puno ng gasolina, ilagay mo lang ‘yang kamay mo diyan, patay na ‘yang
(As I said, there would be no problem if the virus were just in the hands. Just fill a drum with gasoline, dip your hands in it and the virus will die).
In his July 21 talk to the nation, Duterte gave the same advice to Filipinos who don’t have alcohol or disinfectant to spray on their face masks.
He said people can soak their face masks—and hands—in gasoline or diesel to kill the coronavirus.
The president said:
Iyong wala, ibabad mo ng gasolina o diesel, p****** i** COVID na ‘yan. Hindi uubra ‘yan diyan. Totoo. Kung wala kayo — if you want to disinfect, maghanap ka ng gasolina. Ibabad mo lang iyong kamay mo. Layo mo lang kay baka — huwag sa loob ng bahay ninyo
(Those who don’t have alcohol or disinfectant, soak your mask in gasoline or diesel. That son-of-a-bitch COVID wouldn’t stand a chance against it. It’s true. If you don’t have, if you want to disinfect, look for gasoline. Soak your hands in it. But keep a distance and don’t do it inside your house).
FactRakers said in its April 22 fact check that the president’s statement on gasoline as an antiseptic or disinfectant had no basis and could be dangerous. (Read: Gasoline as antiseptic has no basis; it’s also dangerous)
Rappler fact-checked the president’s July 21 claim and rated it false.
Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire said July 22 the president might have been joking when he issued the dangerous statement even as she urged journalists to be responsible in their reporting.
“Alam niyo naman pag nagsasalita si Presidente, baka iyong mga jokes lang niya iyon, especially for gasoline (You know how it is when the President speaks, so it may be just one of his jokes, especially for gasoline),” she said.
In his July 23 briefing, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque insisted Duterte was joking.
“Kayo naman apat na taon na si Presidente, parang hindi niyo pa kilala si Presidente. Joke only! Bakit naman tayo maghuhugas ng gasoline (He’s been president for four years, and you ought to know him well by now. Joke only! Why would we wash with gasoline)?” he said.
In his July 21 talk, the president also twice inadvertently referred to the COVID-19 pandemic as “pandemonium”:
Under ordinary times, that’s what I’m saying — about to say kanina (earlier), is that a simple violation of not wearing a mask, it used to be trivial and social distancing, all of these things. But during times of health issues, pandemonium, you can because it can be a serious crime, transmitting your…
...Right at the beginning of the pandemonium — right at the beginning, it was really a prescribed, mandatory thing to have a mask.
FactRakers. (2020, April 22). Gasoline as antiseptic has no basis; it’s also dangerous. Retrieved from https://www.factrakers.org/post/gasoline-as-antiseptic-has-no-basis-it-s-also-dangerous
FALSE: Gasoline, diesel can disinfect masks – Duterte. (2020, July 21). Rappler. Retrieved from https://rappler.com/newsbreak/fact-check/gasoline-diesel-used-disinfectant
Pandemonium. (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pandemonium
Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque. (2020, July 23). Retrieved from https://pcoo.gov.ph/press-briefing/press-briefing-of-presidential-spokesperson-harry-roque-61/
RTVMalacanang. (2020, April 16). Talk to the people of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) [Video File]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/yDBD8pS3jUU?t=1212 (Watch from 20:12 to 20:23)
Talk to the People of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). (2020, July 21). Retrieved from https://pcoo.gov.ph/presidential-speech/talk-to-the-people-of-president-rodrigo-roa-duterte-on-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19-15/
World Health Organization (2020, February 24). What is a pandemic? Retrieved from https://www.who.int/csr/disease/swineflu/frequently_asked_questions/pandemic/en/
Yee, J. (2020, July 23). Duterte’s ‘gasoline’ prescription to disinfect masks may be just a joke – Vergeire. Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved from https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1310665/vergeire-dutertes-gasoline-prescription-may-be-just-a-joke