By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter
CONTINUED public speculations regarding the health of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, triggered by Malacañang’s handling of this matter, is an important “lesson” for the next administration, analysts sought for comment said.
At least three analysts were asked what potential lessons could be considered by the next administration from how Mr. Duterte and his men are handling rumors regarding his health, which have been recurring since the 2016 presidential campaign.
In an emailed reply to questions on Tuesday, lawyer and Ateneo Policy Center research fellow Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco said that his advice would be “to be honest and practical.”
“Do not pretend [that] people cannot see what is really happening to the President. The public knows the real score and it does not help to lie to them. Filipinos will understand that the President can rest and recover if he is sick. They will be especially be forgiving to a very popular one,” Mr. Yusingco said.
For her part, University of the Philippines (UP) political science professor Maria Ela L. Atienza said in an email on Monday: “I think it is important to be honest with the people about the health condition…of the President. At least, people will not speculate when they know what is the actual situation.”
Also sought for comment, UP Political Science assistant professor Perlita M. Frago-Marasigan said via chat on Monday that the Palace’s “strategy has always been to evade the issue or to spin a story.”
“Since the position is an office that emanates from trust, it should start from there,” she added.
Another lesson, according to Mr. Yusingco, is to “obey the constitutional prescription strictly.”
“Do not circumvent this by equivocating on what ‘serious illness’ really means. Be loyal to the principle behind the provision which is the right of the people to know the health of their President,” he said, referring to Article VII, Section 12 of the 1987 Constitution which states: “In case of serious illness of the President, the public shall be informed of the state of his health.”
“Being open and honest about this matter will bring the people to your side. The sympathy of the Filipino public cannot be underestimated,” he added.
Mr. Duterte was visibly not well and skipped some of the traditional ceremonies during the commencement exercises of the Philippine Military Academy last Sunday, but his spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo dismissed this saying the President simply “lacked sleep.”
In his speech at the Palace on Monday, Mr. Duterte said that he has “all” sorts of illnesses, including “in the colon.”
Ms. Atienza said, “It seems [that] the people around the President do not want to give details [regarding his health] because there appears to be a feeling of insecurity among [them] of what will happen should people know that he is sick.”
“While he is still enjoying high popularity and trust rating, some allies might withdraw support if they feel that the President is ill and will not be able to perform his duties. The President’s people may also be wary of giving the Vice President, who constitutionally can be delegated powers and should be ready to assume responsibilities if the President is unable to perform his duties, as she is not considered an ally,” she added.
For her part, Ms. Frago-Marasigan said: “The best way to handle this situation is just to be transparent about it. Presidents owe that to the people.”