Duterte needs time alone, says ex-President Estrada
President Rodrigo Duterte, just like anybody else, is entitled to time alone.
That’s the take of former President Joseph Estrada, now mayor of Manila, on the recent absence of President Duterte from official functions.
Reacting to all sorts of speculation after Mr. Duterte disappeared from public view for about a week, Estrada said he understood the difficult situation the President was facing, particularly the monthlong siege of Marawi city by Islamic State-allied terrorists.
The speculation was fueled by a Malacañang press office that had clammed up amid demands by opposition politicians, notably archcritic Sen. Leila de Lima, who is detained on drug charges.
“Let’s give him the privilege of being alone for a while. It’s hard to be President, that’s not the only country’s problem,” Estrada said, referring to the siege of Marawi.
“I’ve been there and he just needed to rest,” he told reporters at the weekend.
Physical, mental stress
Estrada cited his own experience when he waged an all-out war against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2000 that he said had caused him physical and mental stress.
“I don’t like giving excuses now, but I really had a hard time sleeping when I learned that many of my soldiers were dying,” said the Manila mayor.
De Lima and other senators have called for “transparency and accountability” from Malacañang to inform the public of the truth on Mr. Duterte’s health condition.
The detained senator cited the Section 12 of Article VII of the Constitution, which stated that the public must be informed of the President’s health in case of serious illness.
The rumors about the President’s health swirled when he missed the Independence Day celebration in Rizal Park, where Vice President Leni Robredo and Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano appeared in his stead.
Mr. Duterte, 72, returned to the public eye on Saturday, during the 50th founding anniversary of Agusan del Norte in Butuan City.
Saying he was not on a medical break during his disappearance, the President debunked rumors that he was in coma, joking that he was merely in bed.
“Coma? Nasa kama lang ako (I’m just in bed),” said Mr. Duterte, who had taken a medical examination last year.
“My state of health is what you see is what you get,” he said after visiting soldiers at the 4th Infantry Division advance command post in Butuan.
The President said, however, that he traveled “incognito” with his close aide to an undisclosed place in Mindanao.
He clarified that he did not snub the June 12 holiday but was “just really tired.” He told the public not to worry about his health.
“My health is irrelevant,” Mr. Duterte said, saying that Robredo would be there to replace him.
On June 11, before he vanished from the public scene, Mr. Duterte attended the arrival honors at Villamor Air Base in Pasay for eight of the 13 Marines who were killed in Marawi.
He also joined the wake of two slain Marines at the Philippine Marines headquarters in Fort Bonifacio.
Before that, he had been visiting wounded troopers and condoling with relatives of soldiers killed in battle.
Previous incumbent Presidents had made themselves scarce as well, for periods shrouded in secrecy. Speculation then ranged from the need for time alone with play stations or treatment of kidney or lung problems.
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