Philippine President Says Illnesses Taking Toll on Him

Jojo Rinoza and Jeoffrey Maitem
191118-PH-Duterte-Indian-President-1000.jpg Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (right) meets with Indian President Ram Nath Kovind at the Malacanang Palace in Manila, Oct. 18, 2019.
[Malacanang Presidential Photographers Division via AP]

President Rodrigo Duterte has admitted to suffering from a host of illnesses that are taking a toll on him, but his spokesman says the 74-year-old Philippine leader remains capable of carrying out his duties as the country’s chief executive.

The president made the comments during an interview with a local television station over the weekend, amid widespread speculation about his physical well-being.

“If you talk about my being sick, yes. You name it, I have it. So there won’t be any debate,” Duterte said, according to a portion of his comments to GMA News that were aired on Saturday.

“All the sicknesses, I have them because I’m old. If you ask me, are you OK, Mr. President? Are you in the best of health? Of course not. I am old, life has begun to take its toll on my health,” he added.

Last month, Duterte revealed that he was suffering from an autoimmune disease, which causes muscle weakness and the drooping of eyelids. He also recently cut short a trip to Japan for what he described as unbearable pain in his spine after a motorcycle accident.

His spokesman has sought to play down the president’s health issues and also argued against Duterte issuing a periodical health notice, as demanded by the political opposition.

Duterte is currently “not normal because he has a lot of illnesses,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said on Sunday.

However, the president has not slowed down in carrying out his duties as the country’s chief executive, according to Panelo.

“But if you will notice, even if he has illnesses, his schedule has not changed. Not only does he survive, he does it well,” Panelo said.

In 2018, Duterte announced to the public that he had undergone a colonoscopy. In addition, he said his doctors notified him that he had Barrett’s esophagus, a condition marked by an abnormality in the lining of the lower esophagus. Duterte also suffers from Buerger’s disease, which leads to pain caused by blood vessels constricting in the arms and legs.

Under the Philippine Constitution, “in case of a serious illness of the President, the public shall be informed,” but Duterte himself had in the past brushed aside his health issues as a normal consequence of aging.


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