Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will let the public know if he has a “serious illness,” his spokesman said yesterday, a day after the leader said in a public address that he had gone to a hospital for tests.
Rumors of Duterte’s health woes re-emerged after the 73-year-old president, known for a busy schedule and long speeches, missed two official events on Wednesday, including a Cabinet meeting.
“I don’t know where I am now physically, but I have to wait for the results” of the tests, Duterte told graduates of the Philippine Military Academy, acknowledging that he had gone to a hospital for digestive tract tests, which his aides had denied.
“I would tell you that if it’s cancer, it’s cancer. And if it’s third-stage, no more treatment. I will not prolong my agony in this office or anywhere,” Duterte said, according to a transcript of his speech.
The leader has long complained of suffering from Barrett’s esophagus — an inflammation of the tube connecting the mouth to the stomach — from alcohol use when he was younger.
He has also acknowledged having daily migraine and spinal issues.
“The result of the examination, whether or not it can be made public, will depend on what they find out,” spokesman Harry Roque told a news briefing, citing a provision in the Philippine constitution on public disclosure of the president’s health conditions. “The president is not inclined to hide anything about his health. I assure the public, the president will not hide anything. If it is serious, he will inform the nation.”
Roque said he was kept “in the dark” about the president’s trip to a hospital.
“Endoscopy was recommended, from his own words, because they wanted to be sure that there was a growth and they wanted to know more about the growth,” Roque said. “That is the context of why he said: ‘If it’s cancer.’”
When asked if the president was dying, Roque said: “I don’t think so.”
According to Philippine law, if a sitting president dies in office, is permanently disabled or removed through impeachment, the vice president serves the remaining years.
Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo, a leader of the political opposition, was elected separately in 2016.
Duterte on Thursday said that he thinks Robredo is too “weak” to handle the presidency.
“I do not mean to offend the lady. She’s very good. She’s gentle, but she’s really weak. She’s not necessarily weak intellectually, because she’s a lawyer, but strategically weak,” he said.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg
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