Duterte claim is 'imaginary,' says Joma
MANILA (UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday maintained that Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Maria Sison is ill -- this time, alleging that the latter has cancer.
"Matanda na ito. Sison is sick. May colon cancer," Duterte claimed during his second State of the Nation Address.
The Netherlands-based Sison, who is Duterte's former professor, denied the claim.
"Colon cancer lang ang issue niya. It is imaginary," Sison said in an online interview with ABS-CBN News.
In a statement issued Monday night, Sison explained that he was hospitalized for a month but for a different health condition.
"I was treated in connection with rheumatoid arthritis and skin allergy for the following symptoms: low auto-immunity level during the cold months of autumn and winter, lack of appetite, loss of weight, skin allergy, pains on the joints, etc. No findings of cancer of any kind, cardiac problem or any other malignancy which is life threatening," he said.
Sison also noted that his age should not be an issue since he is still "physically and mentally strong."
"Duterte himself is an old man at 72. I am only 6 years older than him. So what is the public issue?" he said.
The CPP founder said Duterte should be the one to explain the times he was away from public eye as the people deserve to know the President's state of health.
"It is Duterte who has to explain his disappearances for medical reasons because the public is entitled to know everything that pertains to his suitability for public office," he said.
Duterte last year restarted peace talks between the government and communist rebels, fanning hope of ending the decades-long insurgency in the country.
Earlier this month, Duterte urged communist rebels to show commitment to the peace process by stopping their alleged attacks against government troops. He added in the same speech that his Sison was "seriously sick."
Sison also denied this claim in an interview with ANC, saying he was hospitalized but was already in good health.
He added that communist leaders have offered to help the government shift to a federal system of government if their peace negotiations go well.
Duterte however said last week that he no longer wanted to talk with the rebel panel following fresh attacks by their armed wing, the New People's Army.
""Kayong mga Left: I will not talk to you. Why should I?" he reiterated during the SONA. -- With Thea Alberto Masakayan, ABS-CBN News