MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte is “fit” and “healthy,” Malacañang said on Tuesday, after an absence of nearly two weeks fueled concerns on his condition.
Duterte, 76, resumed on Monday his weekly televised address that was canceled last week after dozens in his security team caught COVID-19.
“Ang paglabas ng ating Pangulo ay patunay na ang Punong Ehekutibo ay nananatiling fit, healthy, not to mention, mukhang bumata sa kaniyang edad,” said his spokesman Harry Roque.
(The appearance of our President is proof that he fit, healthy–not to mention, looking younger than his age.)
During Monday's speech, Duterte responded to concerns, saying, “If you are saying that I have a sickness that would prevent me from exercising the powers of the presidency, there's none.”
Duterte, the oldest to become Philippine President, had said he suffers from Barrett’s esophagus, an inflammation of the tube connecting the mouth to the stomach.
The President, in various instances, has said he also struggled with back pains, migraines and Buerger's disease, which is linked to blockages in the blood vessels associated with heavy smoking during his youth.
A former aide last week released videos and photos showing Duterte jogging, golfing, and motorbike-riding in an apparent bid to quell rumors on his health.
"The reason I can swing (a golf club) and ride the motorcycle is because I still can," said Duterte.
The hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo (where is the President) trended on Twitter last week.
Video courtesy of PTV
The Philippines is battling one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in Asia, with hospitals in the capital Manila overwhelmed with record daily infections, while authorities face delays in the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines.
Duterte on Monday said he would “waive” his slot in the vaccination drive, and that whoever wanted it could have it.
“Ang unahin natin ‘yong medyo pagka-nabigyan ng vaccine, there’s a chance that he would live and live productively,” he said.
(Let's prioritize people who, if given the vaccine, there’s a chance that he would live and live productively.)
Duterte's vaccine sentiment is “temporary,” while COVID-19 shots are still scarce, said Roque.
“Siguro po ‘pag talagang dumagsa na ang ating supply at kinakailangan madaliin na talaga ang pagbabakuna sa lahat, ‘yon po ang panahon na magpapabakuna ang ating Presidente,” he said.
(Perhaps when our supply increases and the vaccination should be sped up, that's the time when our President will get vaccinated.)
Rejecting talk that the President has been vaccinated in secret, Roque said: “Hanggang speculation lang po ‘yan.”
(That's just speculation.)
Duterte last year revealed that some members of his security team took unauthorized COVID-19 shots.
His government is facing renewed criticism over its handling of the pandemic after a surge in COVID-19 infections that forced authorities to reimpose stricter curbs in a bubble that includes Metro Manila and nearby provinces for 2 weeks.
The restrictions were eased from April 12.
The Philippines has recorded more than 876,000 COVID-19 cases and over 15,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
– With reports from Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News; Reuters