Duterte does not have cancer, Philippines’ acting interior minister says

October 9, 2018 - 5:05 PM
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President Rodrigo Duterte
President Rodrigo Duterte attends the opening session of the 20th ASEAN-JAPAN Summit in Manila, Philippines November 13, 2017. (Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha)

MANILA — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte does not have cancer, the acting interior minister said on Tuesday, after the firebrand leader underwent tests in a private hospital.

The public has been clamoring for information about Duterte’s health after the 73-year-old missed two official events last week.

“He disclosed to us that the result of the test was negative, the one where they took samples from his intestines,” Eduardo Ano told reporters in an event posted on Facebook live by domestic news agencies.

Ano said Duterte made the disclosure during a cabinet meeting on Monday night. The president made an unscheduled visit to a hospital when doctors asked him to repeat digestive tract procedures three weeks after similar tests.

Duterte’s condition “is not serious” and will remain a confidential matter, his spokesman, Harry Roque, told a separate news briefing, declining either to confirm or deny the prior remarks of the acting interior minister.

President Rodrigo Duterte waves to the public. (PPD/Albert Alcain)

“The president will abide by the constitution, but because it is not serious, he will treat his medical condition as confidential,” he said. Roque declined to give details of the test results and Duterte’s health.

“Let us wait for his disclosure. Anything that is confidential can be waived by the person alone.”

The Philippine constitution provides for the public to be told of the state of health of an incumbent president, if serious. If the leader dies in office, permanently disabled or removed through impeachment, the vice president succeeds to serve out the rest of a six-year, single term.

Vice President Leni Robredo, an opposition leader, was elected separately in 2016 and could fuel uncertainty in the succession process in a highly polarised political climate.

Duterte’s health was a constant source of speculation after he disappeared from public view for a week last year but his aides dismissed rumors of his medical condition.

Over the weekend, Duterte was in Hong Kong with his partner and young daughter on an unannounced trip, with his special assistant, Bong Go, posting pictures of the family on social media. — Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales and Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by Neil Fullick and Clarence Fernandez