Given the demands of his job, Mr. Aquino should go on a long break, say once every quarter, for his own good, according to Health Secretary Enrique Ona.
“Every so often, I mention that, ‘You need a break,’” Ona told reporters. “If you have the flu, which I’m sure you or me or your friends do get every so often, then it’s best that you take off.”
If US presidents take summer breaks or go on holidays to bond with their families and engage in their favorite pastime, there’s no reason Mr. Aquino couldn’t do it, said Ona, a doctor who headed the National Kidney and Transplant Institute before he was named to the Cabinet.
“I’m sure you have seen how other leaders of other countries, like the United States, [take a break],” Ona said. “Every so often you read that the president goes to Camp David. President Bush goes to his home in Texas or in Massachusetts near where the Kennedys used to have their vacation.”
President Obama himself has spent his annual break with his family on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. In 2011, he was criticized by Republicans for going on vacation while the Americans were facing an economic crisis.
According to Ona, Mr. Aquino need not look far to see where he could relax—he could always drive to the family’s ancestral home in Hacienda Luisita, the sugar estate in Tarlac province.
But bringing paper work is a big no-no, he said.
“The mere fact that the President enjoys Luisita, I think he should do that more often, which I think he has been trying to,” Ona said. “You must remember that his health is the concern of the whole country and we are concerned as to when he should really get out of the so-called stressful job for a couple of days.”
It goes without saying that this should not be a “working vacation,” Ona added. “I think one should take a good break quarterly.”
Mr. Aquino was advised to take a two-day rest after flying home from grueling sessions of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit in Cambodia last Tuesday night. When he spoke at the MediaNation summmit in Tagaytay City on Friday, he had a fit of coughing, which his spokesperson attributed to the flu.
Concerns about his health were raised earlier when, a day before flying to Cambodia, he failed to receive International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde due to a flu and cold. Still, he decided to fly to Cambodia.
No holiday break
Mr. Aquino’s spokespersons said the President had the flu and allergic rhinitis, an inflammation of the mucous membrane of the nose, but that otherwise, he was healthy.
In earlier interviews, Mr. Aquino said he was always cooped up in his office even during holidays.
“Ever since I got into this job, I have not had a holiday,” he told reporters. “During Christmas holidays, what I normally get is just Dec. 31 and at least half of Jan. 1. The executive secretary and I spend the second half listing down the things that have to be done starting Jan. 2.”
Ona said he didn’t find “anything seriously wrong” with the President’s health but that he had also advised him to “get a regular checkup.”
“The point is he gets checked up regularly,” Ona said. He said he was not aware of the results of Mr. Aquino’s checkups. “That’s not my job.”
Part of relaxation
Ona said that allergic rhinitis “can be” aggravated by smoking. He also said he believed Mr. Aquino had been trying to reduce smoking.
“He looks at smoking as part of his relaxation, and as I said, I’m sure that he’s trying to do his best to eventually get out of that but we have to give him that space of doing that,” he said.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda last week indicated that Mr. Aquino wasn’t ready to kick the habit of smoking.
“At a certain point, he would like to quit but right now, this is what destresses him,” Lacierda said. So, let us allow President Aquino to find a way. He knows what is important.”
Leo Olarte, vice president of the Philippine Medical Association, earlier said he had asked Mr. Aquino to quit smoking so he could be in top shape in running the affairs of state.
Olarte also advised him to keep a balanced diet and sleep at least eight hours a day.