Photos show darkening of Duterte’s complexion in recent months

Pia Ranada
Photos of President Rodrigo Duterte show the darkening, and then graying, of his complexion from his first month in office to October 2018

(Instructions: To scroll through the photos, click the first photo on the left side of the slide then press the left or right arrow keys in your keyboard or click on any photo in the slide. The photos are arranged by date.)

MANILA, Philippines – The observant among the country’s news hounds have spotted a curious darkening of President Rodrigo Duterte’s face in recent months.

Duterte himself likely heard the chatter, prompting him to mention his complexion during his speech on Thursday, October 18, in Manila.

Photos of the President from his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July 2016 to a military camp visit earlier this week indeed show a marked darkening of his face.

The change in color is most apparent on the sides of his face. Based on the photos in the slideshow above, the darkening started to become apparent in November 2017 when the sides of his face were browner than the rest. Photos from the month before show less or no contrast.

In the months after November 2017, the darker brown tinge remained.

Some months later, by his SONA last July, the darker shade had taken on a grayish tinge still apparent these days.

The President claims his skin only got darker because of his frequent visits to military camps all over the country and his trip to Jordan where he attended an outdoor demonstration of Jordanian defense equipment.

He admitted a dermatologist checked his skin and recommended a regimen to make it lighter.

Duterte knew his complexion was being linked by some to health issues. There has been talk that medical procedures like dialysis could lead to skin discoloration or that it points to kidney ailments. (READ: President’s health: Touchy topic for Duterte, public concern for Constitution)

The President lightheartedly alluded to the speculations in his Thursday speech.

“They said it must be the kidney, he is sick because of the dark skin…. You ask me – 3rd stage, cancer of the brain. So what else? Part of my kidney is already gone and my heart beats 120 miles per hour. Who wouldn’t die from that?” he said.

In early October, Duterte’s health dominated headlines after he admitted his doctors found a “growth” during an upper endoscopy. A few days later, however, Duterte claimed the biopsy results showed the growth was not cancerous–

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at