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Aquino says Malacañang must inform public of Duterte's health

MANILA, Philippines – Former president Benigno Aquino III said Malacañang should inform the public of the status of President Rodrigo Duterte's health.

Aquino made the statement in an interview with reporters during the commemoration of the 35th death anniversary of his father, the late senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr, at the Manila Memorial Park on Tuesday, August 21.

The former Philippine leader said this information is crucial to allay the fears of the public, as Malacañang thumbed down calls for the regular release of medical bulletins on Duterte after it was rumored that he had fallen into a coma. (READ: Amid rumor of Duterte coma, Malacañang insists no need for medical bulletins)

"Kung walang issue, kayang-kaya sagutin. At palagay ko importante rin 'yun pampakalma sa sambayanan...talagang maging klarong-klaro, maliwanag na maliwanag," Aquino said.

(If there's no issue, this can be easily addressed. And I think it's also important to calm the public...to really be very clear [about the issue].)

Aquino also pointed out that the 1987 Constitution requires that the Cabinet must know of the President's health. 

"'Di ba nasa Constitution 'yun (Isn't it in the Constitution), if I remember correctly. The Constitution, 'yung (the) Cabinet must be fully aware of the health of the president. That’s mandated by the Constitution," Aquino said. 

The 1987 Constitution also states that the public must be informed if the President has a serious ailment. 

Other ways

Malacañang, Aquino said, also has other ways to address the issue. After all, he said, a sitting president has various public activities and engagements.

"Parang mahirap naman yatang everytime na lang may magre-raise ng isyung ganoon, sasagutin, baka wala ka nang ginawa kakasagot. Pero palagay ko naman, madaling nakakausap ng kanyang mga opisyal, maraming aktibidades ang Presidente. Ang daling ipakita noon maski 'di man diretsuhin sagutin 'yung komentaryo ni Joma," Aquino said.

(It would be difficult to respond to it everytime that issue is raised, you might end up just answering it repeatedly and accomplishing nothing else. But I think it's easy for him to talk to his officials, the President has a lot of activities. It's easy to show the state of his health without directly responding to the commentary of Joma.)

Communist leader Jose Maria Sison had claimed that Duterte fell into a coma on Sunday, August 19, after attending an event of his law school fraternity, Lex Talionis, in Davao City on Saturday, August 18, which was his last public appearance.

Malacañang belittled this and said the Chief Executive was "as strong as a horse."

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque also denied the need for Malacañang to issue medical bulletins from Duterte's doctors to put to rest such rumors.

It's enough, he said, that Duterte is set to be in Cebu City on Tuesday to attend a conference of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines' Visayas cluster. 

But on Monday, August 20, amid persistent rumors, Special Assistant to the President Bong Go started a supposed live video of Duterte. The video, which went live on the Bong GO Facebook page at around 8:30 pm, shows Duterte supposedly about to have dinner with an unnamed woman. 

Duterte's allies in the Senate also backed the Palace and said such rumors are just "fake news," adding there is no need to issue medical bulletins.

Unlike Duterte, other presidents such as Fidel Ramos issued medical bulletins from their doctors when they had medical procedures done. (READ: President's health: Touchy topic for Duterte, public concern for Constitution– Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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