Duterte shows up in Cebu
CEBU CITY—After disappearing for five days, President Duterte showed up in Cebu City on Tuesday night, dispelling speculation that he was seriously ill.
Mr. Duterte, showing no signs that he had been bedridden, flew in from Davao City to address a meeting of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines.
He told about 200 mayors from the Visayas that he wanted to “disabuse the mind” of Jose Maria Sison, the exiled founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines, who claimed on Facebook on Sunday that the President was comatose.
“Let me just disabuse the mind of Sison. His mind is so abused,” Mr. Duterte said.
Assassination by CIA
The President said that if he would die, it would be through assassination by the US Central Intelligence Agency, which, he claimed, had tapped his cell phone.
“I know the US is listening. That’s the one that will kill me,” he said.
Mr. Duterte appeared to be in good spirits, although he was seen wiping his nose a couple of times.
His visit to Cebu was his fifth this year. The province delivered more than 2 million votes for him in the 2016 presidential election.
The latest speculation about the state of Mr. Duterte’s health was fanned by Sison’s statement on Facebook that he had received a report on Sunday that the President fell ill and slipped into a coma either in the afternoon or evening of that day.
Sison said he had received another report about Mr. Duterte’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, forming a “caretaker committee” to run the government while the President was ill.
Sison’s post came days after Mr. Duterte spoke about quitting, saying he was old and tired.
Then he dropped out of public sight on Sunday and had not been seen since, prompting Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano to urge Malacañang to make public Mr. Duterte’s health record, as the President’s disappearances were getting frequent.
Former President Benigno Aquino III followed on Tuesday, chiding Malacañang for its inability to present a clear and calming story about Mr. Duterte’s health.
“If there’s no issue, then it should be easy to answer,” Aquino told reporters at Manila Memorial Park, where he led the commemoration of the 35th anniversary of the death of his father, Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr.
“I think it’s important to temper the anxieties of the public by being very clear, very straightforward,” he added.
The 1987 Constitution, he said, requires the government to inform the public about the state of the President’s health.
Aquino was referring to Article VII, Section 12 of the Constitution, which states: “In case of serious illness of the President, the public shall be informed of the state of his health.”
Malacañang had done no such thing, despite wild speculation about Mr. Duterte’s health following Sison’s post.
Instead of issuing a statement from the President’s doctors, Palace officials had been making disparaging remarks about Sison that did not help to explain Mr. Duterte’s latest unscheduled vacation.
Bong Go’s video
The guessing eased on Monday night after Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go livestreamed a video on Facebook showing Mr. Duterte at a table with an unidentified woman in an unidentified hotel in Davao City.
“I’m alive, fairly healthy and I’m having dinner with a beautiful lady,” Mr. Duterte said in the video.
The video was undated, but in it Mr. Duterte mocked Sison and urged the communist leader to come home if he was sick, promising to make room for him at New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City.
Davao City’s Mayor Duterte said on Tuesday that she doubted whether it was Sison who posted the report about Mr. Duterte’s failing health.
If it was Sison, she said, his behavior would be “irrational,” as it differed from the behavior of the man who sent her chocolate and a note years ago that she found “pleasant.”
“His recent Facebook post about the dying [President Duterte] is not rational and I’ve been thinking that maybe it was not he but his caretaker who posted it,” Mayor Duterte said.
“My guess is, at the rate that he or his caretaker is unraveling, he will soon say that [President Duterte] is not human but an alien,” she said.
‘I said that’s unverified’
Sison took to Facebook on Tuesday not to disclaim the message but to say that he never claimed the report about Mr. Duterte being comatose was true.
“I never claimed it to be certainly true but I cautioned the readers of my Facebook timeline that the report is subject to verification or negation by the public appearance of Duterte and by credible medical bulletin,” Sison said.
He acknowledged that the video of Mr. Duterte on Monday night belied the report.
But Mr. Duterte’s appearance in the video indicated that he was not well at all, Sison said.
“The video indicates that Duterte suffers from some serious illness, such as the aggravation of his self-admitted Buerger’s disease and/or his kidney problem due to frequent use of painkillers, including fentanyl,” Sison said.
He added that he was pleased to see Mr. Duterte alive.
“There is a chance of his living long enough to be held accountable for his crimes against the people and be tried by the people’s court or by the International Criminal Court,” Sison said. —WITH REPORTS FROM JEANNETTE I. ANDRADE, MATTHEW REYSIO-CRUZ, CHRISTINE O. AVENDAÑO AND FRINSTON LIM
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