The Palace sought to squelch rumors Monday that President Rodrigo Duterte had gone to Hong Kong for a medical checkup, and said he visited only to unwind with his family.
“That’s just gossip. We saw his pictures roaming around and browsing for yellow clothes,” Communications Secretary Martin Andanar told the Radio Mindanao Network.
“I think, the President deserves some break, family time, given how hard he has been working,” he added, amid rumors that Duterte, who admitted undergoing an endoscopy for a growth in his digestive tract, had gone to consult a Chinese expert.
Duterte on Saturday went on an unscheduled trip to Hong Kong with his family, three days after disclosing he had a medical examination.
Special Assistant to the President Christopher Go took to Facebook to stem speculation about the President’s trip.
Duterte’s top aide uploaded photos of the President along with his common-law wife Honeylet Avanceña and daughter Kitty, shopping for yellow clothes.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea also echoed Go’s sentiment about Duterte’s unscheduled trip to Hong Kong.
“He has been working since June 30, 2016. Can they not allow him a weekend break?” Medialdea said in a text message.
In a speech before doctors in Cebu on Sept. 21, Duterte first confirmed he underwent an endoscopy.
Two weeks later, Duterte revealed before members of the Philippine Military Academy in Malacañang that he had a follow-up procedure to check “samples” taken from him.
Aside from Barrett’s esophagus, the 73-year-old President also admitted suffering “perpetual pain” from other medical conditions such as Buerger’s disease, a complication of gastro-esophageal reflux
disease, and a spinal injury, which he obtained from a motorcycle accident.
In the House, Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said President Duterte’s health is not a cause for alarm unless the growth in his digestive tract is found to be life threatening.
“I think he has been quite transparent,” Arroyo, former President, told reporters when asked about the health of President Duterte after he admitted that he went to Cardinal Santos Medical Center for a medical checkup last week.
“Only if he says that it is serious because I have also had lots of growths in my time. They were precancerous polyps but they never ripened into cancer because timely removal was done with science and technology,” said Arroyo.
Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel said he believed the President is in good health.
“You can see in his public appearances that he is physically fit. I do not know why there is a big fuss about his health when you can see clearly that his actions are not of a sickly person but of a healthy person,” Pimentel said.
Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III said he is confident the President is in the pink of health.
“I pray hard that God would take good care of him until he finishes his term,” said Albano. “What is good for President Duterte would be good for the country.”
But opposition and Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano said the health of the President is a “national security concern.”
“I have been calling the attention of Malacañang to publish the state of health of the President especially now that he admitted publicly that he is sick. This matter is of national security concern. The people must know if the President is still fit to discharge the duties of his office. Anything that he does or fails to do will affect the whole nation,” Alejano said.
“Having said these, I hope that the officials in the administration would be truthful regarding an issue of this gravity. The conflicting statements issued by Malacañang only reveal that they are indeed hiding the truth from the Filipino people,” Alejano added.
Amid recent reports that President Duterte has been undergoing medical tests, a latest Social Weather Stations survey said that a majority of Filipinos have expressed concern about his health.
The SWS survey said 45 percent of 1,500 respondents believe that the Chief Executive has health problems while 26 percent said otherwise and 29 percent were undecided.
The SWS survey said 55 percent of the respondents are worried that President Duterte will have health problems and 61 percent claimed that his condition is a public matter.
In the Senate, Duterte’s allies dismissed talk of the President’s health.
Duterte’s party mate at PDP-Laban, Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, said he is not worried about the health of the President because he always sees him.
“I can’t even follow his schedule,” said the former Senate President, who is also president of PDP-Laban where Duterte sits as national chairman.
Pimentel said he himself has scheduled endoscopy and colonoscopy tests as part of routine checkup.
“I am just 54, but I’m already setting schedules for my endoscopy and colonoscopy. Doctors really advise the conduct of such tests when you’re above 50 years old,” Pimentel said.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III also said it is normal for the President to undergo such tests.
“Once you reach 50 and above, you have to do it every five or two years. Others even do it every year. I should also undergo endoscopy but I have yet to do that because I’m scared,” Sotto said.
If the President is sick, Sotto said he believes he would not hide the findings.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said he was optimistic that the Palace would update the public on the President’s health “at the appropriate time.”
“Even if the President is found to have a medical condition for as long as he is fit to perform his duties then that’s okay,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said Filipinos have the right to know if the President is ill.
“The Constitution states that the public has the right to know what the illness of the President is. The spokesperson also said he would relay the information to the public,” he said.
He recalled that during the Marcos administration, there were persistent rumors about how other people were running the country because of the late dictator’s declining health.