Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has said that life is taking its “toll on my health,” as speculation swirls over the 74-year-old’s prolonged absences from the public eye.
Duterte cut short a trip to Japan last month, because he was suffering from “unbearable pain” in his spine after a recent motorcycle accident, and has not spoken publicly for two weeks. The accident came just 10 days after he revealed early last month that he has myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune disease that causes muscle weakness and can result in drooping eyelids and blurred vision.
“If you ask me... ‘Are you in the best of health?’ Of course not,” Duterte told GMA News television on Friday.
“All of the ailments, I have them because I am already old... Life has begun to take its toll on my health,” Duterte said.
The recent incidents have intensified speculation about his capacity to lead, although his spokesman Salvador Panelo has repeatedly said there is no need to issue medical bulletins on the president’s health.
Duterte has opted to work from his hometown Davao City, on the southern island of Mindanao, over the past week to rest, his spokesman said.
The oldest Philippine leader elected, Duterte last week passed on the running of his signature anti-narcotics crackdown that has claimed thousands of lives to Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo, an archcritic.
Duterte has not given public remarks since he attended a regional summit in Thailand that ended on Nov. 4, shortly after he cut short his trip to Japan, having attended the enthronement ceremony of Emperor Naruhito with the aid of a cane.
Duterte had also previously said he suffers from migraines and Buerger’s disease, which is characterized by inflammation of blood vessels, usually due to smoking.
In other news regarding Duterte, he threatened to remove Robredo from her “drugs tsar” post if she shared state secrets with foreign individuals and entities.
The warning, made in a television interview, came a few days after he offered Robredo a lead role in his brutal war on drugs, which she later accepted to reassess a campaign she said was fraught with senseless killings.
Robredo, a political rival of the popular Duterte, said on Oct. 23 that international help, including from the UN and International Criminal Court (ICC), should be sought if the government refused to change tack and stop abusive police.
“Revealing State secrets to foreign individuals and entities, as well as welcoming those who have trampled the country’s sovereignty, would be damaging to the welfare of the Filipino people,” Panelo said in a statement yesterday.
“She may not realize it but she could be treading on dangerous ground. It could be an overreach of the granted authority, hence the reminder,” Panelo added.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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