MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte dismissed concerns about his health as he said Vice President Leni Robredo can always take over in case he dies or falls into a coma.
"Do not worry. There is a Vice President who will take over. My state of health is immaterial," Duterte said in an interview with reporters in Butuan City on Saturday, June 17.
"My state of health is, what you see is what you get," the President said.
Asked by GMA-7 reporter Joseph Morong if he recently underwent an operation or a blood transfusion, Duterte answered in jest, "Tuli, gusto mo (What about circumcision)?"
Duterte explained that he "went on a trip somewhere" during his 5-day absence. "I cannot divulge it. I had to go there incognito," he said. "I traveled like a private citizen so that I can go where I had to go."
He also joked he was not in a "coma" as rumors suggested, but on the "kama" (in bed).
Duterte made these remarks on Saturday as he made a public appearance for the first time in 5 days. He was last seen in public on June 11, the eve of Independence Day.
In his interview with reporters on Saturday, Duterte also urged the public not to worry if he is absent for one or two days.
He cited the case of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos who suffered from lupus, and "could not appear for so many days" after he underwent an operation.
Duterte ended the interview by addressing his political opponents: "Magdasal na lang kayo (You can just pray)."
He made the statement as some senators said the public deserved to know the "truth" about the President's health which administration officials said remained "excellent."
Duterte is sensitive to questions about his health. In a news briefing in Davao City 3 weeks before he assumed the presidency last year, he ranted about a journalist who, he said, was "disrespectful" because he asked the then President-elect about his health condition.
Duterte had likened that question to him asking the reporter about the odor of his wife's genitals.
The Constitution, under Article 7, Section XII, specifies that in case of serious illness of the President, the public shall be informed of the state of his health.
The President's supporters said the Chief Executive does not have to disclose his health status to the public if he just had a minor ailment. – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at email@example.com.