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Senators say Duterte’s muscle disease ‘not life-threatening’

Aika Rey
Senators say Duterte’s muscle disease ‘not life-threatening’

Malacañang Photo

But Senator Joel Villanueva says the President's team should update the people, about the President's condition, as they deem appropriate

MANILA, Philippines – Senators on Tuesday, October 8, said President Rodrigo Duterte’s rare muscle disease is “not life-threatening,” but some acknowledged the nation would always be concerned about the President’s health.

“Malacañang and a number of medical experts have already stated that it is not at all life-threatening, so let’s leave it at that. Nevertheless, I join millions of Filipinos in praying for the President’s good health and well-being,” said Senator Panfilo Lacson.

Duterte on Sunday, October 6, disclosed that he has a rare muscular disease called myasthenia gravis, which adds to his already long list of medical conditions. Myasthenia gravis is a rare autoimmune disease that may result in drooping of eyelids or overall weakness. (READ: President’s health: Touchy topic for Duterte, public concern for Constitution)

Senator Imee Marcos said Duterte’s ailment is “very common” among old people. Duterte turned 74 years old in March.

“Sa palagay ko matibay siya…. I think he is quite transparent actually. ‘Di naman ‘nya ‘tinatago sakit ‘nya, sinasabi nga ‘nya,” said Marcos. (I believe he’s strong. I think he is quite transparent actually. He doesn’t hide his ailment, he discloses it instead.)

Senator Francis Tolentino meanwhile said there is “nothing to worry about” the President’s health, and that he is more concerned about dengue patients following an outbreak.

“He is a strong as a horse, [considering] his hectic grind. He knows how to pace himself, though. I am more worried of our young dengue patients. [The Department of Health] has to [work] double time,” Tolentino said.

But some senators expressed concern about the President’s health, he being the head of the republic.

“The nation will always be concerned about the state of the President’s health. We hope that his team would update the people about the President’s condition, as it deems appropriate,” said Senator Joel Villanueva.

While Senator Richard Gordon is not worried about Duterte, he said is “concerned.”

The 1987 Constitution states that the President must disclose the state of his health if he has a “serious illness.”

In October 2018, Duterte said he was found with a polyp in his intestines and was tested for cancer but that it came back negative.

Duterte had also claimed to have Buerger’s disease, which he supposedly acquired from smoking. Buerger’s disease is a rare condition that may constrict blood vesseels in the arms and legs, blocking blood flow.

Speculations about the President’s health arise whenever Duterte disappears from public eye for a consecutive days, with Malacañang posting photos of the President as “proof of life.”

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Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at