Wed, Jun 28, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Manila says Duterte ‘alive and well,’ as health rumors swirl

Reuters, MANILA

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is alive and well and experiencing no health problems, the government said yesterday, amid concerns about his disappearance from the public eye for unusually long periods this month.

Known for a busy schedule and lengthy speeches often several times per day, 72-year-old Duterte’s low profile has fueled rumors he is in declining health and that the government is trying to keep that under wraps. He was last seen in public a week ago.

What has created the most intrigue is Duterte’s absence during what is the biggest crisis of his year-old presidency, as the military battles for a sixth week to defeat Islamic State-linked rebels occupying Marawi City on his home island of Mindanao.

“First and foremost, he is alive and well. He is very well; he’s just busy doing what he needs to do,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella told reporters. “As you’ve seen, he’s been very much in the public eye, but being out of the public eye, that is when he is able to do office work; he signs papers, he reads, he consults, he’s actually very busy.”

“The thing that is very important to note is that he is on top of every situation, he is aware of what’s happening; he’s updated regularly, he reads, he listens and he’s quite aware. This is just his working style,” Abella added.

Duterte was yesterday scheduled to meet some Cabinet members and attend an event at the Presidential Palace in Manila to mark Eid al-Fitr, the end of the Muslim month of Ramadan.

His absences this month represent the longest periods he has been out of the spotlight. He was last seen on Tuesday last week in two cities close to Marawi, visiting soldiers and evacuees.

That followed a three-day absence after a speech in which he said his health was “immaterial,” amid raised eyebrows about his failure to appear in public for Independence Day on June 12.

Duterte’s known ailments include back problems, migraines due to nerve damage after a motorcycle accident and Barrett’s esophagus, which impacts his throat. He also suffers from Buerger disease, caused by his heavy smoking in younger days, which can cause blockages in blood vessels.

His office has said he has been experiencing fatigue.

“The public should not worry,” Philippine Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar told DZMM radio. “Our president is healthy.”

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