Duterte gets medication for 'muscle spasms' after doctor checkup

MANILA, Philippines – Doctors have advised President Rodrigo Duterte to rest and take medication for "muscle spasms" during a checkup for an "unbearable" back pain that had forced him to cut short a trip to Japan this week.

Speaking to reporters at the Senate on Wednesday, October 23, Duterte's trusted aide Senator Bong Go refused to say which hospital the President visited.

But he said the consultation showed Duterte only suffered from "purely muscle spasms" and no other serious condition.

"Ako na po ang mag-aassure sa inyo, nothing to worry [about]. Purely muscle spasms po 'yun at kailangan lang po niya ng pahinga ng ating Pangulo, (Let me assure you: nothing to worry about. It was purely muscle spasms and all our President needs is rest)," said Go.

Duterte underwent an MRI scan and was given a pain reliever. 

The doctor advised him to rest for the next few days, likely until the weekend, said Go.

The President has not been required to go on total bed rest but was advised to avoid standing up.

"'Wag masyadong nakatayo (He shouldn't be standing too much)," said Go.

Despite this, the senator said the President was still likely to push through with at least one official engagement on Thursday, October 24 – the courtesy call of China’s Vice Premier Hu Chunhua.

Go said Duterte continued to feel pain in his back, near the pelvic area, when he returned to the Philippines but nothing like the "unbearable" pain he felt in Tokyo.

The President had initially thought the pain was due to the motorcycle accident he had the week before which could have aggravated "spinal issues" he got from even older motorcycle accidents.

"We were worried at first that his spine was hit since he felt unbearable pain yesterday but thank God that there is nothing to worry about and the doctor really looked at it while doing the MRI, the doctors were checking if there was a vein that got pressed, there was none. They saw purely muscle spasms and the medication given was for muscle spasms," said Go in Filipino.

No medical bulletin issued yet

Earlier on Wednesday, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo promised that Duterte would "inform our countrymen on the result of his medical consultation."

But as of 2 pm, Panelo had yet to issue any formal statement on the result of the medical check-up. So far, it's only Go that has given an update.

The President's latest health issue revived concerns over the health of the 74-year-old, along with calls for Malacañang to release medical bulletins or let doctors of the President speak on his health condition.

So far, the public relies only on Duterte's or his spokesmen's words for information on the true state of his health. This despite Duterte's many ailments which have forced him to skip several official engagements, both in the country and abroad.

Transparency about the President’s health is enshrined in the 1987 Constitution. Section 12 of Article VII reads: "In case of serious illness of the President, the public shall be informed of the state of his health." (READ: President's health: Touchy topic for Duterte, public concern for Constitution)

What happened in Japan

The back pain supposedly began even before he departed for Japan but got worse there, before the enthronement ceremony for Japanese Emperor Naruhito.

Panelo, in a DZBB interview on Wednesday, said Duterte first felt extreme pain as he was brushing his teeth on Tuesday morning.

"'Noong nag-toothbrush ako (When I was brushing my teeth) this morning,” – that was yesterday – 'excruciating, searing pain 'yung nararanasan ko dito sa may (was what I felt in the) pelvic [area],'" said Panelo, recalling Duterte's words to him.

Duterte told Panelo he even had to "lean" his knees against something so he would not fall.

It was Duterte who asked Go to buy him a cane in Japan, said the senator.

The President used the cane while he got ready for the event, brought it with him to the car, but left the cane in the car before walking into the Imperial Palace, the venue of the enthronement.

A photo taken as he emerged from the car showed him grimacing, as if in pain.

Unable to bear the pain, Duterte delegated his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, to represent him in the events after the enthronement – like the Emperor's banquet and Prime Minister's banquet.

Duterte landed in Manila around 10:30 pm on Tuesday, and was still able to visit the wake of late former senator Nene Pimentel, though he carried a cane and looked tired.

Presumably hours later, the President went to a hospital to see a doctor. – Rappler.com


Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.