MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The past months have been tough for President Benigno Aquino III, who has been hit with criticisms left and right over the botched Mamasapano operation that led to the death of 67 people, including 44 elite cops.
Is that crisis affecting the President's health?
Early Saturday, March 21, Malacañang denied rumors that Aquino collapsed Friday evening, March 20.
"I have communicated with the President regarding the rumors circulating tonight that he collapsed, and he immediately responded to my text with 'No such thing,'" Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a statement.
The President's official schedule on Friday included the 10 am inauguration of the Museo ni Emilio Aguinaldo at the Emilio Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, Cavite. After this, he was scheduled to meet with Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa at 1 pm.
Palace sources said it was a short day for the President who chose not to return to Malacañang Palace after the trip to Cavite. He also reportedly skipped what was planned to be a social event for Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio "Sonny" Coloma who is celebrating his birthday next week.
In an interview over dzRB on Saturday, March 21, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said the President has not even complained about having a cold or a cough.
"What I know from the President’s personal physician is that the President does undergo regular checkups and sees his personal doctor whenever mayroon po ‘yang ubo or sipon because, siyempre, may kailangan na prescription ng doctor. But I can assure you that the President’s health is in good condition according to his physician." (I know from the President’s personal physician that the President does undergo regular checkups and sees his personal doctor whenever he has a cough or a cold because of course he needs a doctor's prescription.)
Rumors about the President collapsing began with queries from the media late Friday night. This is not the first time that rumors about officials collapsing circulated, according to Valte, who recalled that two or three years ago, a similar rumor about a high-ranking government-owned and -controlled corporation official also went the rounds. It was also untrue.
"Let's just be careful about disseminating unverified information on social media, not just because it’s the President, but about other equally important things as well," Valte said.
The President has been under pressure in the past weeks.
On Tuesday, March 17, a Pulse Asia Research survey showed public approval and trust ratings of Aquino have hit an all-time low.
His approval rating plunged by 21 percentage points to 38% in March from 59% in November 2014, while his trust rating went down by 20 percentage points to 36% from 56% over the same period – the lowest since he became president in 2010.
The survey also showed that 8 in 10 Filipinos believe the government’s explanation over the Mamasapano tragedy is inadequate.
Still, amid continuing calls for Aquino’s resignation, the survey showed more Filipinos don’t want him to leave his post just yet.
A Senate draft report made public also on March 17 said Aquino "must bear responsibility for giving assent to and failing to prevent the unlawful exercise of official functions" by then suspended, now resigned, Philippine National Police chief Director General Alan Purisima in connection with Oplan Exodus.
It was on January 25, when 392 commandos of the Special Action Force (SAF) were involved in an operation to arrest two "high-value targets," alleged bomb makers Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir or Marwan, and Filipino Abdul Basit Usman.
A clash with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front led to the death of 44 SAF troopers, 18 MILF members, and 5 civilians. Marwan was also killed, but Usman escaped. The aftermath of the operation has put the future of the Bangsamoro Basic Law in the balance.
In May 2016, Filipinos will troop to the polls again to choose a new president. With a little over a year to go, rumors and misinformation are expected to intensify, all part of the rising election fever. – Rappler.com
Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.