• Don’t blame this columnist, it’s Palace incompetence



    My last column on President Rodrigo Duterte (“Did DU30 visit Guangzhou’s Cancer Hospital?,” The Manila Times, Jan. 9, 2017) has created an unfortunate, unnecessary and completely silly media storm. There was not a single malicious, accusatory, pejorative or unfriendly line in that piece, but the mere fact that I raised the question, because of unavoidable circumstances, reportedly pissed off the President. The official reaction made it appear that just by raising it, I had committed some sort of lese majeste, or at the very least an act of “detraction,” a word misused by journalists, grammarians and editors, which actually means revealing someone’s private defects without a sufficiently just public motive.

    I sincerely regret that, and beg the President’s forgiveness. But I am innocent of any offense. The main thrust of my column was the lack of consistency in the government’s pronouncements on the President’s whereabouts after the New Year, and not at all about the President’s state of health. The health issue arose only because of the inept discrepancies in the official statements. Nowhere in my column did I claim that the President was suffering from anything other than the ailments he himself has revealed to the nation—-constant migraine, Barrett’s esophagus, Buerger’s disease, etc.

    He has also revealed his regular use of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid said to be 50 times stronger than heroin and used by cancer patients to treat pain, but he declares vigorously he has no cancer. I faithfully quoted all this without expressing any doubt, reservation or opinion of my own, so there is no reason for him to be peeved and say, “baka mauna pa si Tatad” —-(“Tatad might precede me to the grave”)—-as one tabloid quotes or misquotes him.

    In any case, I am six years older than the President, and it is not improbable that I could go before he goes. According to the actuarial data, of those who are 71 years of age, only 25 to 30 percent or so have a chance of reaching 76. But the statement attributed to him did not sound like an actuarial forecast. It sounded more like King Henry II of England complaining about the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, before his murder at the Cathedral that cold December morning: “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?”

    What’s behind the column?
    How did my particular column come about? This is the long and short of it. The Malacañang media had earlier noted that the President had dropped out of public sight for several days after New Year’s Day, and the two explanations offered by the Palace contradicted each other. A “source close to the President” was quoted as saying the President just rested in Davao. “No appointments or anything. He just took time off. He did not travel outside of Davao City. He just stayed home and did not meet anyone. It was a pure ‘me time’ for the President, which he rightly deserves.”

    However, when Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella was asked whether DU30 had spent any part of the holidays in Manila, he said, “I am not entirely sure, but I think he spent the latter part of the holidays here in Manila.” Although the question asked for a fact, he offered an opinion, and the opinion contradicted the statement from the “source”—- which has since been echoed by the President’s special assistant Christopher “Bong” Go after the publication of my piece—-that “he never left Davao.”

    The two contradictory statements, while trying to protect the President, created a window for legitimate speculation. If the spokesman thought the President had left Davao and spent part of the holidays in Manila, yet nobody had seen him in Manila, was it possible that he had gone somewhere else? This was the most obvious and valid question the Palace reporters should have asked, but did not, leaving a wide gap unplugged. The problem is endemic to superficial reporters. They do not ask the right questions and are more interested in trivia; they let the substance of a story slip by, while trying to squeeze out sensational but inconsequential data.

    The report on Guangzhou
    At this point, a highly classified source offered the information that the President had taken off on a private plane at 1 p.m. on January 1, 2017 for an unknown destination. Later a second source corroborated the information, saying the President had gone to China. Still a little later, a third source said he had gone to visit Fuda Cancer Hospital in Guangzhou (formerly Canton) in Guangdong Province. Although I had not heard of the hospital before, the information was concrete enough and the sources appeared fairly credible. But without the proper documentation, I did not think the information was usable or useful.

    However the Spokesman’s statement that the President might have gone to Manila, except that no one had seen him there, and the statement of the “source,” (now reaffirmed by Bong Go), that the President never left Davao, cast a shadow of doubt on the Palace story. The alleged flight out of Davao on a private plane began to acquire some credibility. Still, I did not say this was, in fact, what had happened. I did not completely buy the story. Instead, this is what I wrote:

    “Because of the conflicting statements from Abella and the unnamed ‘source’, there is risk of giving credence to a report, coming from a chain of usually reliable sources, that DU30 did, in fact, leave Davao on board a private executive plane that flew him to China for a meeting with doctors at the world-famous Fuda Cancer Hospital in Guangzhou (formerly Canton).

    “I am not prepared to endorse the complete veracity of this report. But it seems to be acquiring a life of its own and growing very fast. I tried checking the story with some people who, I thought, would know the truth, and instead of laughing off my query as absurd and ridiculous, they said they were shocked that I was able to get my hands on the report.”

    Malacañang must do a better job
    The point was clear. If the Palace had simply said the President had stayed in Davao all the time, without the Spokesman saying he might have also spent some time in Manila, the problem would never have arisen. Had the statement that the President never left Davao remained uncontroverted by the Spokesman, it would have stood like a massive wall against any undocumented claim to the contrary. I would not have mentioned what sources had said about the President’s alleged whereabouts at all.

    But as a presidential spokesman for at least ten years, I was appalled at the way the President’s people bungled this simple job. It was poor presidential spokesmanship that was at the root of this unfortunate and unnecessary controversy. This columnist, or the nonconformist and independent press for that matter, is not the problem here. The President’s own spokesmen and propagandists are. They have to do a much better job or be fired. They cannot and must not presume that just because they are in positions of power, and that their duty is to provide Malacañang’s version of official events, the public or the media will accept everything they say about anything without first dissecting it.

    Truth and reason alone will decide what official information the public should accept, and after six months of being bludgeoned with strong declarative sentences about the need to kill drug suspects without due process, the public is beginning to reexamine everything they hear from government.

    So the President’s retinue spent the last couple of days trying to convince the nation that the President never left Davao during the seven-day “hiatus” in his official New Year schedule. Is the nation convinced? How many believe it? And how many do not?

    I will not suggest that the sources of the Fuda story should be believed more than the government, but how is the government faring before the public? If the people believe the official narrative, after it has been repeated ad absurdum by various official sources, why do I continue to receive calls from various media outlets, who are too lazy to conduct their own investigations, asking me to shed light on this incident? As I said, my original interest was in the consistency of what Malacañang tells us about the whereabouts of the President.

    If we must talk about DU30’s health
    If Malacañang now says the President is in the pink of health, it will not be my duty to contradict or confirm it. They will have to commission their usual propaganda fraudsters to tell us that 90 percent of all Filipinos believe the President is in the best of health. This is what they have been doing to claim sustained popular support for him, amid rising protest against his continued extra-judicial killings of drug suspects.

    The crooked pollsters have remained fearless and shameless in bombarding us with lies about how people who are mortally afraid of getting killed as collateral casualties in DU30’s war on drugs continue to “trust” the President. They have not bothered to ask people how many of them trust the crooked polls of Pulse Asia and SWS. And they have not bothered to ask in any poll how many brave Filipinos remain unafraid of their President.

    But if we are going to talk about the President’s state of health, which the nation has every right to know, we should have access to scientific findings by competent medical experts. This matter was studiously avoided by the candidates during the last campaign; the President should provide the information on himself, without any compulsion, now.

    For starters he could start telling the nation when, and for what reason, fentanyl, which is reported to have caused so many deaths in many countries, was prescribed to him, and is he still taking it? The rest will be for the medical experts to tell us.

    The more important issue
    But important as the health issue is, DU30 must realize that the survival of his presidency will depend not only on his physical and mental state of health, but above all on the nation’s political, social and economic health. His war on drugs has deeply polarized the nation, and it will not be easy to make it whole again after this “war.” But even as thousands of dead bodies pile up from the extra-judicial killings, there is no clear indication where DU30 is taking the nation, and what clear outcome he would like to see.

    If this is a real war on drugs rather than on something else, a visiting friend from abroad points out, where is the Cosa Nostra, the Pablo Escobar or the Medellin cartel, where is the huge stash of heroin or even marijuana, and where is the money? Is this not a mere attempt to clean up the illegal drugs trade of all the small-time drug users and pushers in slippers in the country in order to make way for the big ones?

    On another plane, there is increasing paranoia about alleged coup plots against DU30. The most unintelligent stories point to Loida Nicolas Lewis, the rich New York-based widow, as a possible funder of a coup to install Vice President Leni Robredo. Both Lewis and Robredo are from Sorsogon, but like so many Democrats I know, Loida is mourning Hillary Clinton’s loss of the presidency. She is no George Soros, and can’t be in any mood to organize even a fund raiser.

    Indeed, there are so many rumors of a coup conspiracy against DU30. The most dangerous conspiracy, my foreign visitor reminds me, is the one you do not hear about, the one you do not see.



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      Yonkers, New York
      14 January 2017

      Given the extremely angry reaction of Little Tyrant Rodrigo Duterte’s sycophantic mouthpieces and apologists to former Senator Francisco S. Tatad recent column which traced the unexplained whereabouts of Mr Duterte on those several days , it is more likely than not that in fact a seriously ill Mr.Duterte flew to that world-famous Cancer Center in China.

      If Mr. Tatad’s conclusion was way off the mark, those mouthpieces and apologists could easily and simply have explained why he was wrong–and then, as is their responsibility, SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT with facts. This they did not do–and there’s the rub.

      I suggest that Mr. Tatad’s life is in danger. From here on he should watch his back carefully if he has to go out of his home to go to his office if he has one. He could suffer the fate of those who have been rubbed out as just “collateral damage” in Little Tyrant Duterte’s psychotic War on Drugs. Under Duterte’s REIGN OF TERROR, human life is totally without value.


    2. You are a masterful writer Mr. Tatad, and your critics are unable to question your points, and have to resort to the usual insults and half truths. The last line in your article is especially thought provoking. Indeed does the so called “drug war” by Duterte which has resulted in thousands of deaths of mostly poor people, have an even more sinister implication, that is, to lay the groundwork for a communist government? The people should open their minds and not blindly support the killings of the drug war. Congress too should not be easily cowed by the President into reviving the death penalty in a hurry.

      Please continue your articles Mr. Tatad, but do also take care of yourself. The Philippines needs citizens like yourself, who care for this beautiful country.

    3. Your excuse and Alibi’s are very much applicable to you Mr Tatad.

      “YOU cannot and must not presume that just because YOU ARE A JOURNALIST , and that YOUR duty is to provide STORIES AND MALICE version of official events, the public or the GOVERNMENT will accept everything YOU say about anything without first dissecting it.”

      Plain and Simple – you should do your job better and carefully verify your sources before even implying and assuming things!

    4. Everybody has to shut up. Our president is no longer the DU30 that we’ve seen during the campaign. Its a PROXY! :)

    5. Yan napapala mo, malisyoso ka kse, Try reading back your article last Jan 9. and for sure anyone who reads it will agree that you are really trying to imply that DU30 was hiding something

    6. Tatad try writing something supportive of this administration rather than rumors, and self righteous articles about your stint with Macoy. You have to admit it that at least we have a better working and honest president now than his predecessors. Try helping your country and stop your failed National transition cult

    7. In any case, I am six years older than the President: (Mr TATAD SAID)

      Question: If you are 6 years older than the Pres. you are already 76 years old?

      Answer: You are the one incompetence!

      Why: In your picture profile you are already telling lies, still want to hide your age.

      Facts: There must be a lot from your column which are decorated by bombastic words. (for what?)

    8. Adelfa Akapulko on

      Mr Tatad you have every right to dissect the truth especially if its blatantly being distorted. There is no need for you to apologize to Mr. Duterte.

      • If you have a documentary truth but in reality NOTHING is there, why raise it again and again … there must be a sinister motive by Mr. Tatad. And why you advise Mr. Tatad not to apologize? The answer is he has made a mistake and makes an apology. period.

    9. Let us just be honest Mr. Tatad, you had malicious intent. You tried to sow intrigue and tell the nation that the president was indeed suffering from cancer. You keep on reading between the lines and making your own speculations and judgments…and then blame others. I am not blaming you completely Mr. Tatad, you are a newspaperman, you need an interesting story for people to read you and there you were successful. Naturally, the president or anybody would get irked by that news item coming from you. Nakakainis parang rumor mongering!

      • Bonifacio Claudio on

        You read everything right all the way — tatad is anti-DU30 as he was in the end-game anti-Marcos; pro Leni-Leila-Lewis & that’s plain to see in this article…

      • Catherine lacson on

        I agree with you Arlene. Now Tatad is acting like he just “innocently reported” the events. Balcony ???

    10. This article simply states that the writer made an honest mistake and it is not true that Du30 went to China. Those who insists otherwise, obviously didn’t get the point of this article.

    11. It was easy for you to suggest DU30 was absent from the public because of medical problems. All you did was write it in a column without any evidence or confirmation. That, my friend, is what people call yellow journalism.

    12. now resorting to rumor mongering, aren’t you Mr. Tatad…keep up your attack esp. that EO on RHwas signed already. YOur CBCP pals are expecting you to keep the blinders on.

    13. As usual, I couldn’t finish reading his column. It appears to me as malice cleverly disguised.
      I won’t bother explaining. since I don’t expect this to see print. Prior to thisI have already sent several critiques
      that I tried to expound but not one has since print.

    14. Why are the Du30 die hard so peeved with Tatad because they can not accept the truth that Du30 is physically sick. He himself admitted that he is always in pain and now blame Tatad about his cancer visit in China. Why hide, everybody knows it that Du30is sick.

      • if he is physically sick, do you think a physically sick man can manage to to travel even a single ride from Manila(review his travel schedules since july 1) to davao?do you think a physically sick man can still work 24 hrs a day and sleeps for 2-4 hrs only?do you think a physically sick man can transform a 24 hrs a day to 30 hrs? HAYUP KANG YELLOWISH KA!!!

      • melissa salazar on

        I have a physically sick friend who travels more often that anyone from butuan to manila. She ismanaging her security business and she goes to work regularly everyday. She has stage 4 cancer adn have undergone series of chemo thrapy last october at the medical city. Yes she can still enjoy life despite.

    15. Duterte can easily avoid the speculation on his present health and mental condition if he submit himself to an official medical doctors to fully evaluate him and let them release their official medical bulletin. Is Duterte scared doing this move as it may be true that his physical and mental health are bad and he is covering it up with medications. It is so dishonest of Duterte to feign excellent health and his patriotic love of country. He is fooling the people that he is putting his life and the Presidency on the line to protect the country! Protect from what? From his policy of killings, human rights and violations of the rule of law just so he can wield power to scare the people. This is reverse psychology of acting brave, courageous and capacity to kill as a form of nationalism! Bullshit Duterte you are a fraud leader and a man of exaggeration, NOT distinction!

      • Duterte is a very successful Con Man. He fooled 16 million plus Filipino voters. You have to admit that he is very very good in convincing voters.

    16. If you just do your so called investigative job properly. You would have already known that he said that he no longer take fentanyl. And the last time he took it was 3 years ago. He mentoned it last year in one of his speaking engagement. You only watch and hear what you want to hear. You continue to mention this drug to fuel the division in our nation. I always read your column as they are interesting esp regarding the reds. But Mr Tatad you are definitely biased against this admin. Have never seen you wrote or highlight the good things they’ve done or implemented. Sigh

    17. Marshall Laway on

      I have no reason not to believe that Du30 went to China for treatment. Dutertards may find it hard to accept but that hospital is one of the best in the world and it is being recommended by many doctors in the Philippines for cancer patients that they have given up on.

    18. In times of crumbling morals in the decadence of people’s moral dignity and reputation degradation there is subtle invincible force secretly intervened the sink noticeably invisible in consistent excellent trust rating of Du30 wrongly interpreted by many perverse media like this, but the truth cannot be easily denied that our people mandated God sent president and its finely selected cabinets and assistants to bring back people’s faith in God for the dawning of moral, social and economic progress that can be seen in the pipeline in the very short period of 100 days and short of miraculously happening in six months. God seemed ultimately prevailing against what is called “ghost soldiers,” that apparently invaded the formerly frustrated Philippine economy and now gradually growing and standing by its own on peace and order and in quite improved lives of the people, by the like in yellow colors of our then VP Leni Robredo, Loida Nicolas-Lewis, Leila De Lima, Trillanes, Drillon, Mar Roxas, Aquinos, Bam and Noynoy, Edcel Lagman, Baduilat, etc., etc., etc and many cohoot in the media, but hey won’t prevail in their dirty tricks of oust movement, because we have able bodied president with iron hands seemingly sent by God, because of God’s love of His people.

      • Thanks Melissa sa yung reflection. Parang mas feel ko ang God’s sa panahon ng Du30 admin, kaysa the past admins. Ikaw ba?

    19. Jose A. Oliveros on

      Is the President of the Philippines – be it Pres. Duterte or anybody – not entitled to some private time for himself or for himself and his family? Is he obliged to inform his spokespersons of his whereabouts all the time? Should columnists like Tatad, always speculate what happened to the President or where he is/was every time the President is not seen or heard in public? Just asking.

      • Sir, the President belongs to the public. He’s like a transparent entity, visible, and accessible to the people he has sworn to serve. The people enjoy “constitutional right” to ask, “where,” what,” “how,” and so forth about their President..

    20. “I… beg the President’s forgiveness. But I am innocent…” Duh. If you’re innocent, what’s to forgive?

    21. huh? palace incompetence? looks more that its YOURS! – you took two inconsistencies and then the 2 yellow media ‘sources’ you quoted, then ‘added’ the fentanyl issue and came up with the the laughable report as in ‘he flew out of the cuckoos nest’ Again, the negatives – you didnt even reported the highest drug haul in our history that happened just few weeks ago but reported your tourist friend looking for a big stash and believe every word of it(does he even read our papers?), The stone-faced Bong Go must be laughing uncontrollably for your bungle…..

    22. I can no less agree that the President’s mouthpieces have not been feeding us with accurate accounts about him and his activities. The President’s health is imbued with public interest and so Palace spokesmen should avoid inconsistencies or inaccuracies in their statements.

    23. Mr. Tatad hinde natin hawak ang buhay kaya kahit ano pa man ang mangyayari sa pangulong Duterte alam namin na buhay nya itataya nya sa pagmamahal ng Inang Bayan at kapwa nyang Pilipino. We just hope and pray that Pres Digong will survive through his term and be successful in his quest to stop drugs, corruption and criminality. PRRD had reiterated to stake his life and presidency in pursuit of these promises and we hold him true to his promises and vow to support him all the way. No amount of scare tactics will send us cowering in fear..any threat we will deal with a bloody nose. Why not write about EO 12. You have more knowledge on this than the health of the president and beside aren’t you the church crusader against RH Law?

    24. So the conclusion, is that you tatad, has done no wrong, no rumor mongering, not attacking someone with silly loop-sided arguments and distorted facts, is beyond malice? – the best media guys?

      Sanctimonious liar, bodol bodol is no match to you.