Palace asked: Tell all on Duterte’s ‘cancer’ test
After President Duterte disclosed that he had undergone medical tests for possible cancer, lawmakers urged Malacañang on Friday to release the results to the public and report on his health regularly.
“During his speech yesterday, I heard him talk and he was quite transparent in saying he went to the hospital,” said Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian. “So the second move will be to announce … to tell the public about the results of his tests.”
Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III said if the findings were serious “then the country should know.”
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Mr. Duterte was “not inclined to hide anything about his health.”
“If it is serious, he will inform the nation,” Roque said on Friday.
In a speech before members of the Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association on Thursday night, Mr. Duterte said he had canceled a Cabinet meeting to undergo another endoscopy and colonoscopy, which he had had three weeks earlier, to get tissue “samples” at Cardinal Santos Medical Center in San Juan City the previous day.
“I don’t know where I’m now physically but I have to wait for (the test results),” he said. “But I would tell you that if it’s cancer, it’s cancer. And if it’s third stage, no more treatment. I will not prolong my agony in this office or anywhere.”
Roque said the medical procedures were done to investigate a growth in the President’s digestive tract and were meant to rule out the possibility of cancer.
“The result of the examination whether or not it could be made public will depend on what they find out … If it is serious he will be compelled to share it with the nation,” Roque said.
Pimentel said Malacañang should not disclose the President’s medical condition unless it was serious, citing doctor-patient privilege and “because sometimes, medical findings can be sensitive or embarrassing.”
Roque and Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go had denied Mr. Duterte’s trip to the hospital on Wednesday.
Roque on Thursday said Mr. Duterte merely “took the day off” for some “private time” and there was “absolutely no truth” to rumors then that the President went to a hospital for a checkup.
Go, on the other hand, released selfies with Mr. Duterte and one of his visitors, former President Fidel Ramos, to show that the President was fine.
On Friday, Roque admitted he was not informed about the President’s hospital visit, prompting him to announce that he might step down as spokesperson because he was not constantly in the loop about presidential affairs.
Opposition members in the House of Representatives said Malacañang should regularly inform the public about the President’s health to also help the government prepare for any eventuality.
“The people should know the real state of health of the President as it is required by the Constitution,” ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro told the Inquirer.
Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano said providing a regular medical bulletin was imperative after Mr. Duterte himself admitted that doctors found a “growth” in his digestive tract.
“This matter is of national security concern. The people must know if the President is still fit to discharge the duties of his office,” he said.
“The conflicting statements issued by Malacañang only reveals that they are indeed hiding the truth from the Filipino people. As the saying goes, all secrets will be revealed in time,” Alejano said.
Communist Party of the Philippines founding chair Jose Maria Sison urged Mr. Duterte to step down and just take care of his health.
“Duterte should resign, take a good rest and concentrate on his medical treatment before he orders his military and police loyalists to ‘neutralize’ the entire Filipino people,” Sison said in a statement on Friday from Utrecht, the Netherlands.
Mr. 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 office in 2016.
The President has said 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, and Barrett’s esophagus, a complication of gastroesophageal reflux disease.
He has cited his ill health as the reason for skipping events during summits abroad.
Mr. Duterte also revealed in 2016 that he takes fentanyl, a powerful painkiller, because of a spinal injury from a motorcycle accident.
Under the Philippine Constitution, if a sitting President dies in office, or is permanently disabled or removed through impeachment, the Vice President takes over.
But in his speech on Thursday, Mr. Duterte said he was unwilling to step down if that meant handing over the presidency to Vice President Leni Robredo whom he described as a “very weak” leader who is “mahina sa diskarte” (lacking in skill).
He added he was more inclined to give the reins of government to a military-police junta with no need for a “stupid coup.”
While Robredo may be a “very good and gentle” person and smart “because she passed the bar exams,” she is not tough enough to lead the country, Mr. Duterte said.
He said that if Robredo, president of the opposition Liberal Party, takes over, she would only be overwhelmed by the communists and the “yellows,” referring to the political opposition.
Leni fires back
“So why would I give it to the Left? Why would I give it to the ‘yellow’?” he said.
Robredo shot back at the President, saying it was his “diskarte” that caused high prices, more economic difficulties for Filipinos and thousands of murders, a reference to the casualties in Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs.
“No one wants the President to fall ill. But he cannot use illness as an excuse to belittle me all over again,” she said.
“Politicking is not my way of life and I prefer to work silently. But this I say now: courage, strength and skills are not measured by harsh words. What our people need is ferocity to go to work,” she said in a statement in Filipino. —WITH REPORTS FROM MELVIN GASCON, DELFIN T. MALLARI JR., INQUIRER RESEARCH, AFP, AP
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