President Rodrigo Duterte‘s admission to a worsening health condition triggered concerns if he could still continue his presidency.
During his televised national address aired last Tuesday, August 25, Duterte suddenly talked about his health amid his rambling that the national government still lacked budget in helping the country recover from the novel coronavirus pandemic.
He shared that his doctor told him to refrain from drinking alcohol because his Barrett’s esophagus, a chronic ailment he disclosed to the public in 2018, is “nearing” stage one cancer.
“Matagal na kami sa gobyerno, magpa-retire na lang, bakit pa namin pagsayangan? Kakaunting panahon na lang ang naiwan so walang — walang — walang ganang — wala nang ganang kumain,” Duterte said.
The current optional retirement age for government employees is 60 and the compulsory retirement age is 65.
“May pera ka naman, hindi ka na makakain kay sabi ng doktor huwag kang kumain ng taba kasi mamatay ka. Ikaw Duterte, huwag ka nang uminom kasi ‘yang Barrett mo nearing stage one ka sa cancer. So hindi na rin,” he added.
This announcement came after some Filipinos made speculations that he might be seriously ill and that he left the country to seek for a treatment in Singapore due to unrelated events that were misinterpreted in closed chat groups.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque also fueled such chatter when he announced that Duterte was in “perpetual isolation” to protect him from the deadly virus which causes COVID-19.
How did the public react this time?
Duterte’s new admission ignited the call of some Filipinos for his resignation for the sake of his health.
“I hate the man so much but I’ll be objective this time. Just step down and focus on your health. Let someone with a reasonable plan actually lead,” one user said.
“Health is wealth…PLEASE concentrate on your welfare and step down. This is for your own good as well as this country. The Filipino people will be in good hands with our VP,” another said.
Another Twitter user, meanwhile, denounced others who wished ill of Duterte and made jokes about his health.
“But people wishing Duterte to fall ill health and praying he gets cancer is FOUL. You celebrating other people’s suffering is pure evil. Morally, don’t be like them,” the user said.
Some Reddit users pointed out that Duterte’s remarks about his health should already warrant the Palace to release Duterte’s medical records.
Last May, the Supreme Court junked the petition for this, citing claims that he’s seriously ill are “unsubstantiated.”
However, the criteria for what constitutes a serious illness is also not stated in the Constitution. Article VII, Sec. 12 of the 1987 Constitution only states:
“In case of serious illness of the President, the public shall be informed of the state of his health.”
Barret’s esophagus is a complication of another illness-gastroesophageal reflux or GERD. While not fatal, those who suffer from it may likely develop esophageal cancer or cancer of the esophagus, the sixth most common cause of cancer deaths worldwide.
Aside from this ailment, Duterte also disclosed he is suffering from myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune disease that causes the drooping of one of his eyelids.
‘Still fit to work?’
In an interview with CNN Philippines on Wednesday, Roque assured the public that the chief executive is still “fit and healthy for a person his age.”
Roque also clarified that the medical advice Duterte mentioned was given to him a “long time ago” and Duterte had since stopped drinking.
“I think that advice was given to him a long time ago when the President was still drinking. He has since stopped drinking and as far as I know since he became President he has not resumed drinking,” Roque said.
Despite the severity of the illness, the Palace is still not keen on releasing any medical bulletin of the president.
“The President is a lawyer. We will comply with the constitutional provision if there is a serious illness, the people will know, he will not hide it,” Roque said.