Who’s fittest and willing to show medical records?

Who’s fittest and willing to show medical records?
Who's the fittest? Of the 5 presidential candidates, two won't make their health records public, while one will submit only a certification that she's well.

MANILA, Philippines – Who among the 5 presidential candidates is the fittest and most willing to show medical records?

The issue of how fit presidential candidates are cropped up in the first week of the campaign. Some, not all, said they’re willing to show their medical records if necessary – if only to prove they’re fit to become president.

On Friday, February 12, Senator Grace Poe challenged fellow candidates to disclose their health problems, if they have any, to prove to the public they are physically fit to run the country.

During a sortie in Pangasinan, Poe was asked if she would be willing to make public her medical records, and she said yes. She also downplayed her smoking habit, saying that the real problem is candidates who are into illegal drugs or who have health problems.

The question became timely since another presidential bet, Davao City Mayor Duterte, was rushed to a hospital in Manila Thursday night after a migraine attack and a chest cold.

Poe: Yes, I can submit medical certificate

May karapatan ang ating mga kababayan na malaman ang katotohanan. (Our people have the right to know the truth.) I am willing to submit a medical certificate from a physician that will reflect that I am physically fit to run for public office,” said Poe, who at 47, is the youngest among the 5 presidential bets.

For starters, Poe said she had a tonsillectomy when she was in grade school, and recently had a few kidney stones removed.  

Santiago: No, that’s human rights violation

So far, among the 5 presidential candidates, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago is the only one who has been open about her health problems.

She announced last year that she was battling stage 4 lung cancer, but later said 90% of her cancel cells had been cured. She has refused to make public her medical records, however.

As early as October last year, Santiago refused to heed the request of Dr Sylvia Claudio in a Rappler Thought Leaders piece to release her medical records, saying it is a violation of human rights to compel her to release them.

“No, because that is my right to privacy. Now if she wants to, she can go to St Luke’s Global [City in Taguig] and she can formally ask them in writing, then St. Luke’s will follow their protocol and abide by it, Santiago said in a phone interview with reporters on October 20.

She added: “Susundin ko kung ano man ang sinasabi ng hospital tungkol doon, pero, alam mo, sa ating civil code and ating criminal code, hindi p’wedeng pilitin ng abogado ang isang patient na ibunyag sa korte ang relation nila ng doctor niya. All of these are covered by private human rights,”

(I will follow what the hospital will say about it but, you know, in our civil and criminal codes, a lawyer cannot force the patient to reveal in court his/her relation to the doctor. All of these are covered by private human rights.)

Binay: Yes, if other candidates will

On Wednesday, February 10, Vice President Jejomar Binay, the oldest of the 5 presidential bets, gave assurances he is physically fit to serve as president

Laki ako sa mahirap eh. ‘Yung mga iba diyan, nung tumatanda na saka sila nakaisip na mag-exercise. Batak ako sa trabaho,” said Binay during a sortie in Laguna province. (I grew up poor. Other people just started exercising when they were old. Physical work made me strong.)

The Vice President shared that he recently had an annual medical examination and that the results were positive, though he was told to avoid eating acidic food as he experiences hyperacidity from time to time.

On Friday, however, his spokesman Rico Quicho pointed out that disclosing medical records is not required by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), and that the Vice President does not want to be perceived to be grandstanding if he divulges his records without being required to.

“Ngayon, kung kinakailangan pong ilabas ‘yang mga medical records na ‘yan, hintayin po natin. Kasi lahat po may tamang paraan at may tamang panahon. Mahirap naman po kung ilalabas natin ‘yan na wala naman hong commitment ‘yong ibang mga kandidato na ilalabas din po nila ‘yong sa kanila,” Quicho told reporters in Batangas, where Binay campaigned on Friday.

(Now, if all those medical records have to be released, let’s just wait for them. Because there must be a right process at the right time. It would be hard if we release them, and then there is no commitment from other candidates to release theirs.)

Roxas: For transparency, why not?

On Thursday, February 11, administration candidate Manuel Roxas II was also asked whether he would be willing to release his medical records.

“Bakit hindi? Ako’y para sa hayag, transparent, malaman ng ating kababayan,” he said on the sidelines of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines event in Manila. (Why not? I’m open and transparent, for our countrymen to know.) 

“Itong halalan natin, walang pinagkaiba ito sa isang job interview. Hindi ba kung tayo’y kumikilatis sa mga nag-a-apply sa atin, inaalam natin lahat? Kanilang karanasan, track record nila, kalusugan nila, ano ‘yung mga plano nila – ‘yan ang mga batayan sa ating pagpili ng mga nag-a-apply, mga aplikante sa trabaho. Eh bakit hindi din ‘yun ang batayan sa pagpili ng pangulo, pinaka-importanteng trabaho sa ating bansa?” Roxas said.

(Elections are no different from a job interview. When we scrutinize job applicants, don’t we want to know everything about them? Their experience, track record, health, plans – we base our choice of applicants on these factors. Why can’t those be the same bases for the choice of president, the most important job in the country?)

Duterte: As a matter of policy, no

Duterte, for his part, told reporters on Friday he is “not crazy” to release his medical documents just because he is being challenged to do so.

“I will not do that as a matter of policy. Ano ako, buang (What am I, a fool)? It’s like you’re forcing me to say I’m not a liar,” he said.

The presidential candidate, now 70 years old, maintained he has always been transparent about his health.

In public speeches, he has admitted having spinal problems due to a motorcycle accident years back. He has also spoken of his Barret’s esophagus, a disease involving the tissue in the esophagus.

He also admitted having Buerger’s disease, a condition that causes constriction of the blood vessels due to nicotine. 

Whether a candidate’s health condition will affect voters’ decision to support him or her, is one question that presidential preference surveys have yet to ask. (READ: Will voters go for ill candidates like Miriam Santiago?)

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) does not require the submission of medical records to qualify running for either president or vice president.  with reports from Mara Cepeda, Bea Cupin, Camille Elemia, and Pia Ranada/Rappler.com

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