MANILA, Philippines – He skipped the Independence Day rites on Monday and also cancelled that day’s supposed traditional vin d’honneur. On Wednesday, he was likewise a no-show during the celebration of the 16th anniversary of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
He did not appear in public for three straight days. What is happening to President Rodrigo Duterte?
Nothing unusual, according to his deputies.
“The President is in excellent health. This is just more on [his] exhaustion…and this is more or less rejuvenating, [like] parang rest. Pero [But] nothing is wrong with the President,” Department of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II told reporters on Wednesday while attending the PDEA anniversary on behalf of Duterte.
Earlier, on Tuesday, presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said there was nothing to worry about the chief executive’s health.
“The President is actually in excellent…health except for the fact that his schedules have been brutal,” said Abella, during a press briefing at the Palace.
Last Monday, Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, who represented Duterte during the Independence Day celebrations, said the chief executive wasn’t able to get enough sleep because of his prior busy schedule and thus he didn’t force himself to wake up early.
“He’s resting. Hindi siya nagpilit na magising kasi napakahirap na dalawa, tatlong oras lang tulog mo,” said Cayetano.
The last time that the President was seen publicly was on Sunday, June 11, when he condoled with the families of the Marines killed in Marawi City during the transfer of their remains at the Villamor Airbase in Pasay City and then proceeded to the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani for the soldiers’ funeral.
On the same day, the President also went to Camp Brigadier Edilberto Evangelista Hospital in Cagayan de Oro City to honor the soldiers wounded in the clashes in the Lanao del Sur capital.
‘No big deal’
Even senators on Wednesday said they were not alarmed by the President’s absence from public functions.
“Let’s give the President some leeway. He is after all 72 years old. And as he himself has said, he is not as strong as he used to be. I wouldn’t immediately be concerned that he has been resting for a few days. Even presidents deserve to take a break,” said Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan.
“A 7(2)-year old who happens to be the President of a country that has to deal with all sorts of problems like the secessionist movement in the south, NPA insurgency, illegal drugs and crimes, with corruption in government to boot is not expected to always stay in shape,” Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson.
“President Duterte is no exception. Those who came before him likewise took some days off occasionally because of health issues. For me, it’s no big deal,” added Lacson.
Senate president Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said that if Duterte is sick, it is the duty of the executive secretary to disclose the chief executive’s health condition to the public.
“If he is sick then ES has the duty to divulge that the President is sick.”
“If he is resting, well, let him rest. No need to announce that the President is resting. What for? Hence, if there’s no announcement that he is sick, why do we insist that he is sick? He is resting from the public eye! I see no issue at all,” added Pimentel.
For Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito, “Now is not the time speculate on the health of the President.”
“As I have been saying, let us show a united front in the face of the challenges before us. If there is anything we know of President Duterte, it is that he is honest, direct to the point, and transparent. I am not worried because I am certain he will address this issue, if there is an issue,” he added.
Last year, before winning the presidential polls, Duterte admitted that he was suffering from four ailments but he said these “are not fatal” — acute bronchitis, Barrett’s esophagus, Buerguer’s disease, and pain caused by a slipped disc from a motorcycle accident that happened a decade ago. He also later complained of having daily migraines.
In February 2016, Duterte, then a presidential candidate and Davao mayor, was hospitalized due to acute bronchitis and migraine. “Oust me, good. Assassinate me, better. I have this migraine every day,” he later said.
Barrett’s esophagus is a complication of GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease in which the cells that make up the esophagus that were damaged by exposure to acid from the stomach begin to look like the cells that make up the intestines.
Smoking is among the risk factors for developing this ailment. The symptoms include chest pain, vomiting blood, having difficulty swallowing, and passing black, tarry, or bloody stools.
About his Buerguer’s disease, Duterte explained that he had acquired the ailment from smoking, which involves the constriction of blood vessels in the arms and legs, blocking blood flow that can lead to damaged or destroyed skin tissue in the arms and legs, particularly in the hands and feet.
Regarding his discomfort caused by his slipped disc, the President earlier said that “I have a lot of issues with my spinal…So that if you guys see me always with a sad mode, I am actually pushing a nerve here (referring to his habit of cupping his cheek) to relieve the pain.”