PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte cut short his trip to Japan because of “unbearable pain” in his spinal column after falling from a motorcycle last week, his spokesman said yesterday.

Mr. Duterte, 74, was scheduled to come home last night so he could see his neurologist today, presidential spokesman Salvador S. Panelo said in a statement.

Mr. Duterte, was the oldest person to be elected president of the country, and his health has been the subject of speculations.

“While this was unforeseeable, the public can rest assured that there is nothing to worry as regards the physical health and condition of the president,” according to the statement.

The president was to miss the Japanese emperor’s banquet at the Imperial Palace last night and had requested Mayor Sara Duterte to represent him and attend on his behalf, Mr. Panelo said.

Mr. Duterte was able to attend the enthronement rites yesterday while carrying a cane to help him in his walk, he added.

The president earlier told the Filipino community in Russia during his visit that he suffers from an autoimmune disease that could potentially have serious complications.

Malacañang earlier this month said the illness was not serious and there was nothing to worry about.

The president had complained of not being able to sleep during his flight from Russia.

The condition “causes weakness in the skeletal muscles, which are responsible for breathing and moving parts of the body, including the arms and legs,” according to the US National Institutes of Health website.

Before his visit to Japan, there were no reports of Mr. Duterte receiving medical help after the accident since he appeared to be okay after the fall, according to a palace briefing last week.

There were different accounts of what happened during his accident. Mr. Panelo said Mr. Duterte had a minor fall from the motorcycle, while the Presidential Security Group said that there was a small mishap that happened while he took out the motorcycle out of the garage.

A Social Weather Stations (SWS) poll in December found that 66% of Filipinos were worried about Mr. Duterte’s health. — Gillian M. Cortez