More Filipinos are worried about the health of President Duterte, as belief gets stronger that he is ailing, according to the results of the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) poll released late on Wednesday.
The survey, taken from Dec. 16 to 19 last year, found that 66 percent of 1,440 respondents were worried about Duterte’s health, up from 55 percent three months earlier.
Nearly half of the respondents, or 49 percent, said they believed Mr. Duterte had health problems, while 24 percent said otherwise, for a net belief score of +25 (percent believe minus percent do not believe), up from +19 in September when 45 percent said they believed the President was ailing and 26 percent said he was not.
The poll has an error margin of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.
Malacañang interpreted the results of the poll to mean that the public was concerned that Duterte might “not last his presidency.”
“They worry that this President, who is offering his freedom and his life so he could save the succeeding generation from being addicted to illegal drugs and from the clutches of certain death, as well as so he could free their families from being dysfunctional, would not last his presidency,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said on Thursday.
“They fear that such an unwelcome event will deprive them of the genuine change they have seen in his unorthodox, tough yet compassionate and caring governance,” he said.
Panelo gave assurance that Duterte was in a “fine state of health.”
He said the President appreciated the public’s concern.
“A grateful President assures the nation that there is no cause for worry,” he said, adding that Duterte’s “punishing schedule” in responding to the citizens’ needs was “proof of his good physical condition.”
Panelo assured the public that Mr. Duterte always watched his health.
The health of Mr. Duterte, who turns 74 this year, has been a constant object of public speculation.
He has publicly admitted that he suffers from daily migraines and ailments, including Buerger’s disease, an illness that affects the veins and the arteries of the limbs and is usually the effect of smoking.
The President has said he also suffers from Barrett’s esophagus, a complication of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, where the normal tissue lining the esophagus changes to tissue that resembles the lining of the intestines. This condition could lead to cancer of the esophagus.
Duterte dropped out of public sight several times last year, with Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison reporting one disappearance as due to illness so bad the President had slipped into a coma.
Always, however, Duterte came back looking fine.
In October last year, he reported that he had undergone tests for colon cancer and, days later, said the tests came back negative.
But he stirred doubt about his health again the following month when he missed four key meetings during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit in Singapore.
Panelo explained then that Duterte skipped the events to take “power naps,” but he only invited more calls for the President to disclose the true state of his health.
The President’s health is a matter of national concern, according to the Constitution.
Section 12, Article VII, of the 1987 Constitution states: “In case of serious illness of the President, the public shall be informed of the state of his health. The members of the Cabinet in charge of national security and foreign relations and the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines shall not be denied access to the President during such illness.” —REPORTS FROM INQUIRER RESEARCH AND JULIE M. AURELIO
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