Duterte pressed on health
DAVAO CITY, Philippines—There was no other time in his campaign for Malacañang when Rodrigo Duterte’s physical presence was more important than what he had to say.
As the Palace and the ruling Liberal Party (LP) applied pressure on him to disclose the true state of his health, the Davao City mayor showed up at public events here on Saturday, including a mass wedding where he presided over civil ceremonies for 99 couples.
Duterte, 70, showed no signs of illness when he arrived at the village gymnasium in Barangay Tigatto for the mass wedding.
He was under his own power and was his usual self, talking to people and giving advice to the couples tying the knot.
As usual, however, he was late.
He arrived with his common-law wife, Cielito Avanceña, and their daughter Veronica.
Accompanying them were his running mate, Alan Peter Cayetano, and the senator’s wife, Taguig City Mayor Lani Cayetano.
Duterte stayed for half an hour after the mass wedding then rode to Tagum City with Cayetano for a campaign rally there.
Duterte dropped out of sight on Thursday, two days after the start of the campaign, after coming down with, according to his camp, migraine.
He canceled a speech to a medical convention in Quezon City and scrapped other activities, setting off speculations about his health.
Duterte faced reporters before flying back to Davao on Friday and told them that he was confined overnight at Cardinal Santos Medical Center in Greenhills, San Juan City.
He said he was found to have acute bronchitis, which triggered headache, nausea and vomiting.
The mayor said he was prescribed antibiotics and advised to rest.
He denied he had cancer or had suffered a stroke, but admitted he had a slipped disc from a motorcycle accident 10 years ago; Barrett’s esophagus, which involves tissue lining in his esophagus; and Buerger’s disease, constriction of blood vessels caused by accumulation of nicotine.
He said his ailments were not deadly and assured his supporters that he was well and was in the campaign for the long haul.
Duterte, however, refused to disclose his medical records, saying that would be crazy.
But he said he would if Mar Roxas, the LP standard-bearer, would show he was circumcised.
Roxas, tied for second place in the polls with Duterte and Vice President Jejomar Binay, the opposition presidential candidate, refused to be baited into a tussle with the combative Davao mayor.
“I have no time for nonsensical things like that,” Roxas told a reporter in Ligao City, Albay province, on Saturday.
But Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice, the LP political affairs chief, said the people had the right to know the state of health of candidates running for President.
“How can the electorate vote for you if you are hiding something from them?” Erice said.
Erice said he wanted Duterte to answer two questions: Are you physically fit and will you disclose your health records?
Marikina Rep. Romero Quimbo, spokesperson for the LP, said Duterte’s refusal to disclose his medical records would set a bad precedent for the other candidates.
“If they’re not willing to fully disclose something that the public can already observe, like fainting spells and slurred speech, what more for the things that cannot be seen like ill-gotten wealth and secret bank [accounts]?” Quimbo said.
Running the Philippines is a full-time job with no vacation leaves and only the fit can handle it for six years, he said.
Malacañang urged Duterte to disclose the true state of his health, saying the people reasonably expected it from all candidates.
“It is in the public interest that all candidates disclose the state of their health, as it may be part of the consideration of the electorate in choosing a President,” presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said.
Lacierda said the 1987 Constitution carried a provision for disclosure of the state of the President’s health, which was inspired by former President Ferdinand Marcos’ concealment of his affliction with systemic lupus erythematosus.
Marcos secretly underwent dialysis and eventually had a kidney transplant. He died in exile in Hawaii in 1989.
Disclosure from all
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., LP vice chair, said he would request all presidential and vice presidential candidates to fully disclose their health condition “in fairness to the people.”
Roxas proposed health disclosure as the campaign started last week, drawing a response of readiness from the 73-year-old Binay and the 48-year-old front-runner, Sen. Grace Poe.
On Friday, Rico Quicho, Binay’s spokesperson for political affairs, gave assurance that the Vice President was “in good health.” Those who doubt it should come with Binay’s campaign to see, Quicho said.
For Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, however, there is no need for the candidates to disclose their health records, as no presidential aspirant can guarantee they will survive six years in Malacañang.
“Even if you have [no illness, can you guarantee that you can] live for six years? That’s why you have a Vice President and we have a rule of succession,” Enrile said in a radio interview.
Enrile noted that President Ramon Magsaysay, who was elected in 1953, did not suffer from any ailment, but died in a plane crash in 1957. With reports from Gil Cabacungan, DJ Yap, Leila B. Salaverria and Kristine Felisse Mangunay/TVJ
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.