Amid rumor of Duterte coma, Malacañang insists no need for medical bulletins

Pia Ranada

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Amid rumor of Duterte coma, Malacañang insists no need for medical bulletins
(UPDATED) 'There's no information that the President is sick,' says Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque as he fends off observations about President Rodrigo Duterte's complexion

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Malacañang belittled communist leader Jose Maria Sison’s claim that President Rodrigo Duterte entered into a coma, saying the Chief Executive remains healthy and “as strong as a horse.”

“The President is fine and well in Davao attending the Kadayawan Festival,” said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Monday, August 20.

The day before, Sison posted on Facebook that he received unverified reports that Duterte went 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, his last public appearance.

Sison also commented on the unusual “darkness” of Duterte’s face and supposedly “unstable” walk and handshake.

Roque, however, denied the need for Malacañang to issue medical bulletins from the President’s doctors as a way to put a stop to such rumors.

It’s enough, he said, that Duterte is set to appear on Tuesday, August 21, in Cebu City to attend a conference of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines’ Visayas cluster.

“They say he has a coma and then tomorrow he is going to the League of [Municipalities], what document do you want? Every time he appears in public, we’re debunking reports that he’s in a coma so why do you need a document to show he is in perfectly good health?” said Roque.

Asked why Malacañang is not keen on medical bulletins when the 1987 Constitution states the public must be kept informed if the President has a serious illness, Roque said, “Because I’m not aware the President is sick. There’s no information that the President is sick.”

Duterte, he claims, is being transparent enough by talking about his health in public speeches.

“The President already said that he was given a clean bill of health so that’s actually making public the results of his medical tests,” said Roque.

Is that enough? Despite Roque’s statements, past presidents have done more than let their spokesmen or themselves make claims about the state of their health, as a Rappler explainer shows. Presidents Fidel Ramos and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo issued medical bulletins from their doctors when they had medical procedures done. In Duterte’s case, however, the public relies only on Roque’s words or Duterte’s for an account of his health.

Duterte’s dark skin

Roque also brushed aside observations that parts of Duterte’s face appear to be darker than before, which some say could be symptoms of a disease or the effect of certain medical treatments.

The spokesman said maybe the President merely forgot to wear his usual face “powder.”

“I don’t know. Maybe he was just not wearing powder. Normally the President wears powder. Maybe there was just a photo taken of him without powder so I don’t see anything extraordinarily different with the color of the President’s face,” said Roque.

The spokesman also downplayed the shaking of Duterte’s hand observed during his last oath-taking with new government officials.

“Kung nanginginig siya, nanginginig siya sa galit lalo na doon sa isyu ng korupsyon. Galit na galit talaga ‘yun,” said Roque. (If his hand was shaking, it was shaking from anger especially over the issue of corruption. He is really outraged.)

Meanwhile, Special Assistant to the President Bong Go and Senator Aquilino Pimentel III joined Roque in assuring the public that Duterte is in good health.

“Nasa kama lang nag-rest, kausap ko pa 2 am kaninang madaling araw si PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte),” Go said in a message. (He is just in bed resting. I spoke with PRRD 2 am today.)

Pimentel, one of Duterte’s allies, also said: “He is healthy. Why believe in the report of someone hundreds of kilometers away in Europe?”

Both Roque and Go said Sison is spreading false information. –

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is Rappler’s Community Lead, in charge of linking our journalism with communities for impact.