Right to know

"In my language, cancer at whatever stage is serious."



The Constitution provides that in case of serious illness of the President, the public shall be informed of the state of his health.

The same provision adds that members of the Cabinet in charge of national security and foreign relations and the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces shall not be denied access to the President during such illness.

Santa Banana, the President admitted in a gathering last week that he was suffering from Barrett’s esophagus and that there was a small growth on his digestive tract.

In my language, cancer at whatever stage is serious. For some, a cancer diagnosis is a death sentence. But we also know that other cancer patients live long enough and can even have a remission.

This is why the public must be informed of what truly ails the President. This can only be accomplished by medical bulletins from the Palace.

The recent Social Weather Stations survey showed that six of 10 Filipinos think the people have to be informed of the President’s state of health. Only two presidents have died in office—Manuel Roxas and Ramon Magsaysay.

What I admire about President Duterte is his transparency. He told us that he was also suffering from Buerger’s disease, a complication that arose from too much smoking and a spinal injury from a motorcycle accident. For this, he takes a pain killer.

We have also seen his disdain of Vice President Leni Robredo, his constitutional successor. Now we are wondering what will be done in the wake of gut issues troubling the country—high prices and insurgency, among others.

All things considered, President Duterte is confronted by more problems now than President Ferdinand Marcos ever was in 1972.

* * *

The Red October scare revealed by President Duterte and Armed Forces Chief of Staff Carlito Galvez makes us ask: Is it for real? I think the answer is both yes and no.

It is for real because the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army have a continuing agenda to oust whoever the sitting president is. And since President Duterte has declared an all-out war on the communist movement, the communists can only retaliate by looking at other sectors of society to help them.

But since it would be stupid for the opposition, particularly the Liberal Party or even the military, to join the communists, many believe this is a convenient way of distracting the people from the gut issues we are all facing.

This is why I think the Red October scare will die a natural death, as soon as election fever heats up.

* * *

In the light of so many sectors paying tribute to teachers, I recall my own time as a professor at the Ateneo. I am now 91 and the kids that I taught then are now in their 70s and 80s.

I am proud of my students who have succeeded in their chosen field. Among them—Joseph Estrada, Domingo Siazon, Mario Tiaoqui, Jun Cruz, Joe Facundo, Bobby Anonas, Tony Co, Baby Perez and Nonoy Alindogan.

I am also proud of Rafael Buenaventura, Chuckie Arellano, Susing Pineda, Tony Lopa, Reli German, Elpi Cuna. I blame my old age for not remembering them all.

My most memorable moment was when my students Tiaoqui and Estrada challenged an American student, Patrick Hilton, to a fistfight. When a Jesuit walked past the boys’ room, he saw Estrada on the floor beaten black and blue by the much taller American.

I was made to testify that since Estrada was a good friend of Mario, he had to protect him. That spared Erap from being expelled—but he had to go to another school.

I came from a family of teachers. My father was a district supervisor of schools in the province of Abra, and my mother was a teacher when she was younger. My late brother Desi was a professor in many law schools.

* * *

President Duterte’s supposed shopping trip to Hong Kong with his partner Honeylet and their daughter was ill-advised. Why go shopping when the country is suffering from inflation?

Topics: Rodrigo Duterte , Red October , Social Weather Stations , Ferdinand Marcos , Carlito Galvez
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