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MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte created confusion on the status of his health by using a riddle to joke that he tested “positive” in medical exams he underwent in Hong Kong.
During his interview with reporters on Tuesday, October 9, Duterte joked that he is like a “battery,” with positive and negative sides.
“Dito sa Pilipinas nag-negative ako. ‘Pagpunta ko sa Hong Kong, nag-positive ako, so sabi ko sa doctor ano ang sakit ko? Sabi niya, ‘battery syndrome,'” said the President.
(Here in the Philippines, I tested negative. When I went to Hong Kong, I tested positive so I asked the doctor, what’s my sickness? He said, “battery syndrome.”)
Obviously in a lighthearted mood, Duterte even teased the reporter to make a guess on what “battery syndrome” is.
“You ask me now, what is it? You ask me,” said the President.
After the reporter humored Duterte, he responded, “This is battery syndrome because may positive negative na (you have positive and negative already).”
Duterte’s confusing tone and remarks prompted the next reporter to seek clarification if he indeed tested positive for cancer in Hong Kong.
“Doon sa Hong Kong. Alam mo kung bakit ginawa ko ‘yan? Kay kung dito ko sabihin na negative ako, sabihin ng mga kalaban ko positive ako. Kung sabihin ko positive ako, sabihin ay drama lang ‘yan, negative ‘yan. So gawa-gawa na lang ako ng istorya,” he said.
(There in Hong Kong. You know why I did that? Because if I say I’m negative, my enemies will say I’m positive. If I say I’m positive, they will say it’s just drama, it’s really negative. So I just made up a story.)
When the reporter again tried to clarify if Duterte went to Hong Kong to have a checkup, Duterte said, “You believe I had a checkup in Hong Kong? The joke is on you. Bakit ako magpacheckup doon? Namili ako ng damit kasi wala na akong damit.” (Why would I have a checkup there? I shopped for clothes because I’m running out.)
Presidential aide Bong Go had previously posted photographs of him and Duterte posing beside yellow clothes in a Hong Kong store, apparently a jab directed at the Liberal Party, associated with the color yellow.
Duterte’s “battery riddle” comes after he told his Cabinet the night before that he tested negative for cancer. The President had also mentioned the riddle during the Cabinet meeting, according to a source.
Another source said the President appeared to be playing a “guessing game” with the Cabinet and was “not straightforward.”
Yet some Cabinet members saw the riddle as merely a joke and that Duterte meant it when he said he was free of cancer. These include Department of the Interior and Local Government OIC Eduardo Año, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, and Special Assistant to the President Bong Go who all told the media that Duterte tested negative for cancer.
Duterte had also told senators that doctors found a “polyp,” a benign growth.
Far from being a laughing matter, a president’s health is deemed a national security issue by the 1987 Constitution.
It states that the public must be informed if the Chief Executive has a serious illness.
Duterte has promised to disclose if he has cancer but maintained that he can still invoke his right to privacy when it comes to his health.
“Hindi naman kailangan sabihin ko lahat eh (I don’t have to disclose everything). There are things which are limited to the immediate family…If I see something wrong I will communicate it to the Cabinet members,” he said. – Rappler.com