MANILA – Malacañang on Tuesday said President Rodrigo Duterte’s health is at its "peak" and brushed aside questions on whether medical bulletins on the President's health should be released.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella pointed out that Duterte himself has been updating the public about his health.
Abella stressed the President's earlier statement that he has stopped taking fentanyl, a strong synthetic opioid analgesic often used to relieve pain during cancer treatments and major surgeries, even as he has back pains.
"The President's health is very transparent. People ask, ‘Should he have a medical bulletin?’ But actually he's so transparent about himself. But based on results, I just like to stress this… the President seems to be at the peak of his health, considering his schedules,” Abella said in a regular press conference.
Asked whether the President was only joking about his health, Abella said, "Take him seriously but not literally, okay? Unless it is really fully stated."
"Take him seriously in the sense that he doesn't always feel in the peak of health. However, as my doctor said in Philippine Heart Center, he said much of these things he goes through are really wear and tear. I mean he is 72 years old. Give him a break. But considering the fact that he keeps going, he got an energizer bunny somewhere in there."
Citing the Constitution, several politicians urged Duterte to disclose his medical records following his revelation that he once took fentanyl to address his chronic back pain and migraine.
Duterte has since denied that he is a drug dependent.
Duterte during his trip to Cambodia said he "may not be around" until the end of his term.
The President also told business leaders that he has Buerger's disease, which causes blockages in the blood vessels and is often associated with smoking.
Duterte has also previously missed some events during meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Laos in September and last month's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Peru, due to migraine attacks and a bad stomach.
Duterte’s staunch critic, Senator Leila De Lima, said recent revelations on Duterte's health condition are "even more worrying."
"I am not a physician, but it is my understanding that it is not just the illness itself that we should be worried about, but also the impact or side effects that the medications he is taking may have, especially on his lucidity and ability to make decisions with a clear mind," she said.
De Lima expressed concerns over the President's use of fentanyl, saying that "not only can it be addictive" but that she understands that it can also have "deleterious effects on the patient's cognitive abilities."
"What if, God forbid, there is an emergency that requires immediate decisions, and the President is under the influence of such a powerful opioid?" she asked.