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Palace: Duterte tells public when he’s sick

MANILA, Philippines — It’s up to the public to “draw its own conclusions” from President Duterte’s remarks neither confirming or denying if he had been confined in the hospital after he was not seen in public for a week.

Malacañang on Monday insisted that the President was not ill and was actually in good health, and that he would inform the public of any “serious” developments on his health.

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“[The President] said he neither confirmed nor denied [that he went to the hospital]. You draw your own conclusions,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said at a press briefing.

Referring to speculations about the President’s health, Panelo said: “To him, it’s not a serious matter. Because if it’s serious, he always tells the public about it.”

“Remember, he tells you when he is sick, or if he went to [see] the doctor,” he added.

Guevarra comment

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Monday shielded the President from calls to disclose his state of health.

Guevarra said the Constitution only required the Chief Executive to disclose any serious illness.

“If the illness is not serious enough to affect the discharge of his official functions, the President has no duty to inform anyone. Like any citizen, the President enjoys the right to privacy under the Constitution,” the justice secretary said.

Social media was abuzz with rumors that Mr. Duterte suffered a heart attack last week and was confined at Cardinal Santos Medical Center in San Juan City.

The President’s absence for almost a week following the May 13 elections fueled speculations about his health.

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But Panelo said the President was at the Bahay Pagbabago in Malacañang “signing papers.”

His former aide Christopher “Bong” Go released a photo of himself and the President snacking on “pancit” (noodles) on Sunday, with a copy of the day’s Inquirer on the table.

Panelo said he called up the President on Sunday to ask him about the speculations.

‘He laughed it off’

“I talked to him [on Sunday], his voice was very strong. He just laughed it off,” he said.

“He never mentioned anything, but from the sound of his voice, he sounded very upbeat,” Panelo added.

The Palace official said he informed the President of the rumors on social media of his supposed confinement at Cardinal Santos Medical Center and that the hospital was on “code blue,” referring to a patient sufferring from cardiopulmonary arrest.

The President underwent endoscopy and other diagnostic tests at the same hospital last year, fueling doubts about his physical fitness.

“He laughed. He said, ‘I’m busy signing papers here. Oh I have to issue a statement. Tell them, neither confirming nor denying. It’s not true that I’m in the hospital,’” Panelo said.

The Palace thanked the public for their concern and said it would let them know of any serious developments on the President’s health.

“Let me assure the nation that if there is anything wrong with the President’s health serious enough to be of our concern, he will tell us,” he added.

Panelo said Malacañang had no plans to go after the people who started the rumors on social media about the President’s supposed hospital confinement.

Asked where the President was last week, Panelo said he preferred to work quietly away from the spotlight.

“You know, the President is working whenever you do not see him. He does not want to be disturbed,” Panelo said.

The President arrived in Manila from Davao on Friday with Honeylet Avanceña and their daughter Veronica. —With a report from Dona Z. Pazzibugan

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