Duterte says Joma Sison 'played into' his hands with coma rumor
MANILA, Philippines – In a speech in Davao City, President Rodrigo Duterte made it sound like he had tricked communist leader Jose Maria "Joma" Sison into spreading rumors about him being in a coma.
Duterte, on Thursday, August 23, said he had expected Sison's Facebook post about "unverified" reports that he, Duterte, entered into a coma on Sunday, August 19.
"He played into my hands. Alam ko kagatin niya eh (I knew he would bite). Just to prove, sabi ko na (I said) – I was waiting for this announcement. He really played into my hand. Pinapasok ko siya (I let him in)," said Duterte during the Eastern Mindanao Command anniversary.
The problem with Sison, said Duterte, is his lack of understanding of the President's manner of speaking about his health, usually in a sarcastic tone.
Duterte even said that it was he himself who let loose information that he was suffering from a serious illness, but that this was just part of his sarcastic style.
"But before I left Malacañang, I whispered, 'Say that I flew out and I'm suffering from kidney failure,'" said the President in Bisaya.
He did not elaborate on who he supposedly left that message with.
Duterte also responded to Sison's claim about his dark complexion. Rather than being a side effect of an ailment or medical treatment, it was a natural consequence of frequenting rural parts of the country, according to the President.
"He is saying my face looks burnt, dark. How can it not get dark? I am always visiting the rural areas," he said in Bisaya.
Why this matters: If what Duterte is saying is true, did he actively lie about his health to certain people? Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque has yet to reply to Rappler's query on what Duterte meant by his remarks.
If the President himself is spreading misleading information about his health, how does this affect the public and their right to know about Duterte's health?
On July 26, Roque dispelled rumors that Duterte was rushed to the hospital, saying spreading such news is a crime.
"There is no truth the President was rushed to the hospital. It is in fact a crime to spread such news," he had said.
Only last Monday, Roque said it is "libel" to make false claims about medical conditions.
"When you attribute a disease to a person, yes, right? Isn't that libel?" said Duterte's spokesman.
If Duterte were not lying but merely being sarcastic, this would indicate a flippant manner in dealing with the public's concerns about his health.
Duterte and Malacañang are already opaque about the true state of his health, denying the need for medical bulletins while at the same time claiming the President's doctors have given him a "clean bill of health."
The 1987 Constitution states that the public must be informed if the President has a serious illness. So far, the public relies only on Duterte's or his spokesmen's word about his condition. – Rappler.com