Duterte healthy despite cancer threat, says palace spokesman

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PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte remains fit despite an earlier disclosure that he was at risk of getting cancer, his spokesman said on Wednesday.

“I don’t think the people should worry about a lack of transparency because the President himself will say what his condition is but as of now, there’s really no serious condition,” presidential spokesman told CNN Philippines.

Mr. Duterte, 75, on Tuesday said he was told by his doctor that he was at risk of getting cancer from Barrett’s esophagus, an inflammation of the tube connecting the mouth to the stomach.

“So far, he is okay,” Mr. Roque said. “As far as I know, there is no cancer and as I said, if there is cancer and if it is a serious illness, he will be reporting it to the people.”

Barett’s esophagus is an illness where cells in the esophagus start to look like the tissue of the intestines. It is a complication caused by serious acid reflux and heartburn.


Risk of esophageal cancer is low but is possible depending on the severity.

Mr. Roque said the diagnosis had been given a long time ago and Mr. Duterte had followed his doctor’s advice to remain in good condition.

The President’s health has long been a topic of speculation for many, with critics urging him to update the public about his medical condition as required by the Constitution.

Mr. Roque noted that Mr. Duterte had stopped drinking since he became President in 2016 to prevent his Barrett’s esophagus from worsening.

The President earlier claimed he drinks at night despite being told to quit the habit.

Mr. Roque brushed off claims linking Mr. Duterte’s stay in his hometown of Davao City to his health status.

He said the President remained healthy, which allows him to regularly give televised addresses weekly. “The President continues to do his job where he is.”

Mr. Duterte was safe and remained healthy, Presidential Security Group commander Col. Jesus Durante said separately.

Duterte has said he struggles with back pains, migraines and Buerger’s disease, which is linked to blockages in the blood vessels associated with smoking when he was younger.

A lawyer this week asked the Supreme Court to compel the government to disclose the health condition of Mr. Duterte.

In a manifestation, lawyer Dino S. de Leon asked the court to act on his appeal after it rejected his petition to disclose Mr. Duterte’s health status.

He also asked the court to hold oral arguments on his plea. Mr. De Leon said rumors about Mr. Duterte’s health could have been avoided if the government had divulged his health condition.

The matter could be put to rest if the tribunal orders the Office of the President to disclose the state of Mr. Duterte’s physical and mental health to the public.

Mr. De Leon said the health of the President must be disclosed as the country deals with a coronavirus pandemic.

He cited rumors about a medical jet landing in Davao City and a return flight to Singapore that allegedly carried a “high-profile person,” whom the presidential palace denied to be Mr. Duterte.

He also cited Mr. Duterte’s exposure to Interior Secretary Eduardo M. Año, who had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Senator Bong Go, Mr. Duterte’s former aide, earlier released a photo of the President in his home in Davao and a video showing that Mr. Duterte was going to a meeting with an inter-agency task force.

Mr. De Leon said Mr. Duterte appeared “lethargic and edematous” in the photo, “with his right eyelid visibly drooping,” contrary to presidential spokesman Harry L. Roque’s claim that he was fine. — Gillian M. Cortez