By Arjay L. Balinbin

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte on Sunday would not confirm or deny rumors that he was confined at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center in San Juan City over the weekend.

“The President is in his residence at the Palace signing papers. I just talked to him, he is neither confirming nor denying that he went to the hospital, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said in a statement.”

Mr. Panelo also said, nevertheless: “There is no truth to the rumor circulating that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is confined in Cardinal Santos Medical Center in San Juan.”

For his part, senator-elect and presidential special assistant Christopher Lawrence T. Go forwarded to reporters via Viber four photos showing the President reading the newspapers at the Bahay ng Pagbabago (formerly Bahay Pangarap) in the Presidential Security Group compound across the Pasig River and Malacañang.

And Cielito “Honeylet” S. Avanceña, Mr. Duterte’s common-law wife, told reporters in a phone message: “I dare tell you guys to check all the rooms in Cardinal.”

Mr.Duterte’s health has been subject to public speculation since last year. On July 22, before his third State of the Nation Address, the President was reported visiting a hospital. But the Palace said it was only for a regular medical examination.

In February this year, rumors about the President’s death circulated online. “For those who believe in the news that I passed away, then I request of you, please pray for me, for the eternal repose of my soul. Thank you,” he said in a video.

Mr. Panelo has said the Palace is not obliged to release a medical bulletin because the President, as the Constitution requires, has “no serious illness.”

In his speech in Pasay City last month, Mr. Duterte admitted that he gets routine blood tests.

“I’m 74 years old, I do not want to die of TB. I do not want to die of lung cancer. As a matter of fact, I got — I acquired Buerger’s disease from smoking. That is why my doctor is here. She gets my blood. Was it… Ah see? Almost every other day,” he told his audience at the opening ceremony of the 7th Union Asia-Pacific Regional Conference in Pasay City on April 23.

“It’s about Buerger’s disease. But I have stopped smoking. When I became mayor in Davao City, I stopped smoking and said it cannot be done, because Filipinos, you know…. And I said, if I catch you smoking in public, you will just have to eat your cigarette. Choose. I’ll blow your balls out or you eat your cigarette,” he said.