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Malacañang: 'Duterte remains fit and healthy'

President Rodrigo Duterte "remains fit and healthy" for someone his age, Malacañang said on Thursday, April 8, as it sought to dispel rumors about the current state of his health.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque issued the statement as rumors and questions about the health status of the 76-year-old Duterte trended on social media, sparked by his decision to skip his weekly pandemic public address on Wednesday, April 7.

"President Rodrigo Roa Duterte remains fit and healthy for his age and we thank the Filipino people for voicing their concern and wishing the Chief Executive's strength and good health during this time of COVID-19 pandemic as he continues to discharge his functions as head of the government," said Roque.

The President tested negative for the coronavirus in his last swab test done during Holy Week, according to former Duterte aide Senator Bong Go.

When Rappler clarified when Duterte’s last COVID-19 test was done, Go said it was conducted during the Holy Week or sometime between March 29 to April 4. 

“Regular naman pong nagpapa-swab test si Pangulong Duterte at, so far naman po, sa awa ng Diyos, ay negatibo naman po kung pagbabasehan po ‘yung last niya pong swab test. So, wala po kayong dapat ikabahala pero we cannot take chances,” said Go.

(President Duterte regularly gets his swab tests done and so far, by the mercy of God, he is negative based on his last swab test. So you have nothing to worry about but we cannot take chances.)

Go told reporters that the postponement of Duterte's Wednesday public address was due to fears that he would contract COVID-19 after some Presidential Security Group (PSG) personnel tested positive. 

The PSG told state-run PTV that they currently have 45 personnel with COVID-19, but none of them were the close-in security detail of Duterte. 

Roque also said on Tuesday that change in schedule was due to "the rising number of active COVID-19 cases" but did not mention the PSG.

No less than Duterte himself earlier revealed that certain members of his Cabinet and close-in security had been administered with the still locally unregistered Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine in late 2020. 

The PSG was also earlier able to secure authorization from the Food and Drug Administration to administer 10,000 doses of the vaccine among its members.

Getting immunized, however, does not mean the vaccinee can no longer get COVID-19 or can no longer be a transmitter of the disease. No vaccine currently gives 100% protection against COVID-19.

Duterte’s government has received widespread criticism for its mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The recent surge in cases forced Duterte to place “NCR Plus” – Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna, and Cavite – under the strictest enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) for the second straight week, on until April 11.

The Philippine has so far recorded a total of 819,164 cases of COVID-19, of which 19.4% or 158,701 are active or currently sick. – with reports from Pia Ranada/Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the Senate and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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