He’s using a cane and air purifier. Questions are being raised about Duterte’s health.

October 25, 2019 - 9:01 PM
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President Rodrigo Duterte attends a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow
President Rodrigo Duterte attends a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow, Russia, Oct. 4, 2019. (Yuri Kadobnov/Pool via Reuters)
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Photos of President Rodrigo Duterte walking with a cane and wearing an air purifier around his neck recently made rounds online, raising questions about his health brought to light anew questions on his state of health.

He was seen using a cane during the state visit to Japan earlier this week. Panelo attributed this to the motorcycle incident he figure in within Malacañang compound on October 16.

Duterte then cut his visit to Japan short on October 22 due to “unbearable pain” in his lower back. His officials said the pain arose from the bad fall.

The Palace, however, has yet provided an official statement of the incident. There were at least three versions of it, from constant companion Sen. Bong Go, Panelo and PSG Commander Brig. Gen. Jose Niembra.

Allies Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah also voiced their concern about his health after learning what happened.

Duterte reportedly did not consult a doctor immediately after the mishap despite experiencing hip pains.

He was also seen wearing an air purifier at official functions during the visit of Indian President Ram Nath Kovind on October 19.

This white portable device was to protect Duterte from people with coughs and colds, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said. It was not clear whether it was was required by a doctor.

Some Filipinos also poked fun at the odd darkening of his skin color.

Lower back pains and a second motorcycle mishap

Panelo revealed that Duterte figured in another motorcycle-related mishap years ago before the incident on October 17.

“The attending doctor said that there is a strong likelihood that these incidents may have caused or possibly aggravated the current pain he is suffering from in his lower back,” the Palace statement read.

Posted by Office of the Presidential Spokesperson on Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Panelo assured the public, however, that the president already underwent medical procedures.

“The president underwent a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and medical evaluation yesterday. He was diagnosed to be having muscle spasms causing what he described to be an unbearable pain at the pelvic and spinal area of his body,” he said.

“The President was advised by his doctor to rest, as well as to take medicines that will relieve him of the pain caused by the muscular spasms. His doctor ruled out any surgical procedure for the President,” he added.

Despite such conditions, Panelo said that Duterte will still be able to perform his presidential duties, including meeting Chinese Vice Premier Hu Chunhua on October 24 to discuss China-funded infrastructure projects.

“Despite the President’s somewhat impaired physical profile, he will continue to perform his presidential duties which include attending to local and foreign engagements in the following days, with the same passion and dedication, in obedience to the constitutional command to serve and protect the Filipino people,” he said.

So far, the reported physical afflictions the president has are:

  • muscle spasms
  • lower back pains
  • myasthenia gravis, a chornic neuromuscular disorder
  • Barretto’s esophagus

Rumors of being snubbed

Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Eduardo Matin Menez disproved of a post by Facebook user Ding Velasco claiming that Duterte was snubbed during his Japan visit, prompting him to go home.

Velasco claimed that the seating for the Philippines was downgraded from “Head of state” to “ambassador,” since Malacañang sent word a month before that the president would not make it the enthronement of new Japanese Emperor Naruhito.

A transcript of presidential spokesperson Panelo’s September 23 media briefing about the Japan trip goes like this.

Celerina Monte of Manila Shimbun: Sir, speaking of Japan, iyong tinext ko sa inyo the other day na did you ask the President already if he will attend the ceremonial—

Sec. Panelo: Yes. He said, he has so many works to do. He might be just sending somebody there.

Manila Shimbun: Sino po iyong kinu-consider niya?

Sec. Panelo: Wala siyang sinabi.

A significant and elaborate event such as an emperor’s enthronement usually requires confirmations from attendees more than a month prior. A last-minute call—such as a change in guests and seating arrangements—could be difficult, even impossible, to accommodate depending on the scale of the preparations.

Velasco claimed in the post that the Philippines changed its mind about Duterte’s non-attendance later on. This meant that he would have to be seated at the back with other ambassadors rather than with fellow state leaders.

But the Department of Foreign Affairs denied the claims.

“I verified with Tokyo, the allegations are false,” Menez told reporters.

Panelo added that Duterte might have sent someone else to finish the coronation ceremony of the new Japanese emperor and his wife Empress Masako.