SC asked to compel disclosure of Duterte’s medical condition
MANILA, Philippines – A lawyer has asked the Supreme Court to compel President Rodrigo Duterte to disclose his latest medical and psychological/psychiatric examination results as well as health bulletins and other health records ever since he assumed the presidency.
The petition for mandamus was filed Monday by Atty. Dino S. De Leon, after his Freedom of Information (FOI) Request for access to the President’s health records, has been denied.
A mandamus is a judicial remedy compelling any government office, subordinate court, corporation, or public authority to perform a ministerial act which it neglected to do so.
“Considering the unjustified denial of the FOI Request, Petitioner further inquired via email when the requested health records will be available. Petitioner failed to get a response to his query as of the time of filing of this petition despite repeated follow-up,” he said.
He urged the high court to compel the release of the health records within seven days from receipt of the writ of mandamus and compel the President to submit to additional confirmatory medical and psychological/psychiatric examination.
The lawyer cited some concerns that prompted him to seek the disclosure of the President’s health condition.
He said, as a citizen, he is “deeply worried” about the health of the President after hearing the March 12, 2020 press conference where the President “was not able to answer questions intelligibly.”
He cited as an example the President’s “incoherent gibberish” response when asked about the lack of testing kits: “…The kit can be distributed to the different health centers, but at this time kung kulang they can be brought to a testing station…to RITM. Kokonti lang kasi…Eh the kit, is the kit, meron namang lumalabas pa…I think that..sabi ko nga…in every epoch, maybe meron nung una, Bubonic Plague, mga gago ang tao no’…”
De Leon also mentioned the several instances where President Duterte begged off from some engagements, often at the last minute citing health reasons. Some of these events are:
-January 3, 2020, scheduled visits to victims of the Dec. 15, 2019 earthquake in Malalag and Padada, Davao del Sur;
-Nov. 4, 2019 closing ceremony of the 35th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit in Thailand;
-Nov. 4, 2019, 3rd Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Summit in Thailand;
-Oct. 22 and 23, 2019 Emperor’s Banquet and Prime Minister’s Banquet after enthronement ceremony for Japanese Emperor Naruhito;
-Sept. 14, 2019, Armed Forces of the Philippines change of command.
De Leon enumerated 16 other events where the President begged off from appearing as well as his prolonged absences from public view.
“Throughout these periods of absence, there were no medical bulletins released, nor was there any detailed explanation from his office about the President’s prolonged absence,” read his petition.
He added that the President himself has publicly disclosed that he is suffering from Buerger’s Disease, Barret’s Esophagus, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, Spinal Issues, daily migraines, and Mayastenia gravis.
Article VII Section 12 provides that “in case of serious illness of the President, the public shall be informed of the State of his health. The members of the Cabinet in charge of national security and foreign relations and the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, shall not be denied access to the President during such illness.”
“From the very text of the Constitution, such illness was not intended to be totally debilitating disease so as to deprive the President of his physical and mental faculties and prevent him from all action…The Constitution contemplates a situation where the President may still remain in some capacity to act, in spite of such serious illness,” he said.
With regards to President Duterte, however, he said it was the President himself who admitted to be suffering from various serious illnesses “which at the minimum will cause serious inconvenience to and prejudice the discharge of his official duties.”
“The responsibility granted by the Constitution to the President is immense. Hence, it is crucial for the Filipino people to know whether or not they have a Chief Executive who possesses unimpeded judgment, free from any form of condition or substance that may affect his ability to make sound decisions,” he said.
De Leon added that: “The illnesses acknowledged by the President comes within the meaning of serious illnesses under the Constitution and given the gravity of the illnesses openly acknowledged by the President, the public release of his medical bulletins becomes a ministerial duty upon request from any concerned citizen.” He stressed that Duterte has a minimal expectation of privacy when it comes to his physical and mental health.
He also pointed out that given the dire circumstances of the country due to the COVID-19, many issues and concerns demand Duterte’s attention and action, but he that added these factors more so serve to magnify the urgency and importance of his petition.
“How can the public be assured that the President is physically well to handle the COVID19 pandemic? How can the public be made aware as to whether or not the President’s condition has exacerbated, if not through the Judicial Branch,” he added.
He said the crisis the country is facing today due to the COVID 19 pandemic showed the need for a “strong and physically fit leader” to guide the country through today’s “toughest test.”
Named as respondents to the petition are President Duterte himself and the Office of the President through Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.
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