President Rodrigo Duterte is not dying, his spokesman said Friday, even as House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is among those who think the Chief Executive can still function normally despite a “growth” found in his digestive tract.
Asked if the President was on the brink of death, spokesman Harry Roque said: “I don’t think so. That’s why I showed a video of the President yesterday to show that he is healthy.”
“But he also said yesterday, name a 73-year-old who does not have an illness. So, if he really has an illness, he thinks it’s not out of the ordinary,” Roque added.
Arroyo, a key ally of Duterte, vouched for the President’s ability to execute his duties, citing her own experiences.
“I’m also going through treatment, right? But even I can go through a six o’clock adjournment [in Congress],” the 71-year-old Arroyo said. “So it can be done.”
Reporters sought the opinion of the former President and Pampanga lawmaker on Duterte seeking medical treatment for an admitted “bad case” of Barrett’s esophagus, which could lead to cancer.
READ: Cancer risk in Barrett’s disease
As Manila Standard reported Friday, the President revealed he is awaiting the results of fresh medical tests at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center in San Juan City—adding that “if it’s cancer, it’s cancer.”
Duterte, 73, is the oldest person ever to be elected president in the country, and speculation about his health has cropped up regularly since he took power in 2016.
Arroyo, meanwhile, had been diagnosed with degenerative bone disease, among other ailments, and wore a neck brace for a while. She was under hospital arrest for a plunder charge for nearly four years starting in 2012 at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City.
Roque, who said he did not know about the tests until later, said the President underwent an endoscopy to learn more about a growth in his digestive tract.
“Right now, we don’t know [if it’s serious] because he went for a diagnostic exam,” he said.
Roque said he will suggest to the President to issue a medical bulletin to put to rest speculation about his health.
“He is still entitled to privacy in this matter. I do not know. If I am still here next week then I will tell him perhaps we need to issue a medical bulletin whether or not it’s serious,” said Roque, who also admitted that he was considering resigning (See separate story—Editors).
“I assure you, as a lawyer, he knows what the Constitution says. If it’s a serious illness, he will inform the nation,” Roque said.
In a speech late Thursday, the President said he underwent an endoscopy and colonoscopy about three weeks ago but that he was advised this week to repeat the tests—and so he went to Cardinal Santos on Wednesday, apparently without the knowledge of Presidential Spokesman Roque.
READ: Duterte: I've undergone colonoscopy
“I don’t know where I’m at now physically, I have to wait for that. But I would tell you that if it’s cancer, it’s cancer,” he said.
“And if it’s third stage, no more treatment. I will not prolong my agony in this office or anywhere,” he added.
Speculation began after Duterte missed a Wednesday Cabinet meeting and another public event.
Duterte keeps up a punishing schedule of appearances ranging from shopping mall openings to police funerals, and frequently delivers multiple, lengthy speeches per day.
The government had denied the leader was having health problems, with spokesman Harry Roque saying the president “just took his day off.”
“I assure you that I have no information that he went to a hospital,” Roque added.
However, in Duterte’s Thursday speech he said: “There was supposed to be a Cabinet meeting, that was yesterday, but... Somebody advised my doctor just to repeat and get some [medical] samples.”
Duterte has said previously that he suffers from daily migraines and ailments including Buerger’s disease, an illness that affects the veins and the arteries of the limbs, and is usually due to smoking.
He has cited his ill health as the reason for skipping events during summits abroad.
The President, known for his deadly crackdown on drugs, also revealed in 2016 that he used to take fentanyl, a powerful painkiller, because of a spinal injury from previous motorcycle accidents.
Section 12 of Article 7 of the Constitution says if the President is seriously ill, the public will be informed about the state of his health.
“The members of the Cabinet in charge of national security and foreign relations and the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, shall not be denied access to the President during such illness.” With AFPREAD: Rody in hospital ‘for 2nd opinion’READ: Pray for Rody's health—Bishops
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