MANILA (UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte is "fit and healthy" for his age, even after he revealed a diagnosis that he was at risk of cancer, Malacañang said Wednesday.
Duterte, 75, said Tuesday he was told by his doctor he was at risk of developing cancer from Barrett’s esophagus, an inflammation of the tube connecting the mouth to the stomach.
"So far, he is okay. As far as I know, there is no cancer," Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque told CNN Philippines.
"And, as I have said, if there is cancer and if it is a serious illness, he (Duterte) will be reporting it to the people," he added.
"He is fit and healthy for a person his age," Roque said of the President.
Chemotherapy to treat cancer leads to hair loss and general weakening, which "you don’t really see in the President," according to Roque.
He said the people need not worry about lack of transparency on Duterte's health "because the President himself will say what his condition is. But as of now, there is no serious condition."
"Since he became President (in 2016)," Duterte has stopped drinking alcohol to prevent his Barrett’s esophagus from worsening, claimed Roque, who first served as presidential spokesman in the latter part of 2017 until Oct. 2018, and then returned in April this year.
Roque's statement contradicts Duterte's own admission last year that he drinks at night despite being told to quit the habit.
People with Barrett’s esophagus are more likely to develop a rare type of cancer called esophageal adenocarcinoma, the US National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases said on its website.
Roque also brushed off claims linking the President's stay in his hometown Davao City to his health condition.
"Unang-una, nakita naman po ng ating mga kababayan ang estado ng kalusugan ng ating Presidente. Ito po ang dahilan kung bakit regular siya nagbibigay ng mensahe sa ating mga kababayan linggo linggo," the spokesman said in an interview with state-run PTV4.
(We can see the status of his health, this is the reason why he regularly gives a message weekly.)
"Kahit saan naman ang Presidente, tuloy tuloy po ang trabaho niya."
(The President continues to do his job wherever he goes.)
The President is "safe" and in "good condition and good health" in Davao, said Presidential Security Group commander Col. Jesus Durante in a separate interview.
The President is "stronger than a carabao," Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go told reporters in a statement.
"Inaalagaan ng mabuti ng Pangulo ang kanyang sarili. Wala po siyang iniindang sakit na seryoso at hindi natin kailangang mag-alala," said Go, the President's former decades-long aide.
(The President is taking good care of himself. We don't have to worry because he is not in pain.)
The Presidential Security Group has been taking extra precaution because Duterte is already 75-years-old, he said.
"Bagama’t may edad na ang Pangulo... buo ang kanyang loob na gampanan ang kanyang tungkulin bilang ama ng buong sambayanan," he said.
(While the President is already old... he is steadfast in fulfilling his duty as the father of the nation.)
Duterte, in various instances, said he also struggles with back pains, migraines and Buerger's disease, which is linked to blockage in the blood vessels associated with smoking during his youth.
In May, the Supreme Court junked a plea to compel the Palace to disclose Duterte's health records.
The petition said cited Duterte's “incoherent, unresponsive…unintelligible rumblings” and his “drunken monologue” during his late-night press conferences as signs he may not be fit enough to manage the COVID-19 pandemic.
- With a report from Joyce Balancio, ABS-CBN News