MALACAÑANG on Thursday assured the public that President Rodrigo Duterte is well amid speculations about his medical condition after he skipped the Independence Day rites on Monday.
Before 6 p.m. on Thursday, the Palace released a photo of the President doing paperwork on a desk at his Bahay Pangarap residence in the Malacañang complex, and another with his aide, Christopher “Bong” Go.
In a news conference earlier, Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said the President was only taking some time to rest and was not dealing with any “major sickness.”
“The President is well. The President just needs [rest]… After all, you have to consider that he has been on the road for at least 23 days in fulfilling his martial law supervision. So, you know, it has been really brutal so we have to allow him this kind of rest,” Abella told reporters.
The 72-year-old President has not been seen in public since he condoled with the families of Marines killed in the Marawi siege at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City, and the Marines headquarters at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City on June 11.
Duterte failed to lead the 119th Independence Day rites at Rizal Park in Manila the following day, as he was reportedly tired and not feeling well.
Abella said Duterte was at Bahay Pangarap, as he disputed claims on social media that the President went to Davao City.
Abella issued the statement after a Duterte critic, Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano, urged Malacañang to issue a regular update on Duterte’s health.
“The absence of the President from the public is very unusual especially [that]there is still an ongoing crisis in Marawi, much more to be absent for a week without explanation except to rest,” Alejano said.
“People cannot help but speculate about the status of the President’s health. Malacañang should be forthright in informing the public about this. The President’s health is a national security issue,” he added.
In a separate interview, Ifugao Rep. Teodoro Baguilat Jr. said: “The most plausible explanation for a President going on leave for a week or more is health reasons.”
“So it’s most likely that he had to undergo a medical check-up. The results have to be disclosed to the public because ever since Cory’s time, a President’s health has been a national concern,” Baguilat added, referring to President Corazon Aquino who was chief executive from 1986 to 1992.
Article VII Section 12 of the 1987 Constitution states that in case the President has a serious illness, the public shall be informed of the state of his health.
The Constitution states that members of the Cabinet in charge of national security and foreign relations, and the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, should not be denied access to the President during such illness.
Abella said he was not privy to whether Duterte consulted a doctor, but said there was always a “medical expert” on standby to check on the Chief Executive’s condition.
“I’m saying that there is nothing to worry about in terms of sickness, major sickness. But what I’m saying is that considering the schedule that he was given, he needs to rest. You do need to rest don’t you?” he said.
Duterte’s health has been an issue after he admitted last year to having been diagnosed with Buerger’s disease, a rare condition in which blood vessels constrict due to the accumulation of nicotine.
with LLANESCA T. PANTI