Duterte will step down if health issues serious

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has admitted he has Barrett's oesophagus, daily migraines, spinal issues and Buerger's disease. On Thursday he said his acid reflux has worsened.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has admitted he has Barrett's oesophagus, daily migraines, spinal issues and Buerger's disease. On Thursday he said his acid reflux has worsened.

Philippine leader says he underwent tests on his digestive tract, is awaiting findings about 'a growth'

MANILA • Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he was uncertain if he is still physically fit and signalled a readiness to step down if he has any serious illness such as cancer.

"I don't know where I am now physically but I have to wait for the results" of the tests, the 73-year old told graduates of the Philippine Military Academy on Thursday, acknowledging he had gone to hospital for digestive tract tests, which his aides have denied.

"But I would tell you that - if it's cancer, it's cancer. And if it's third stage, no more treatment.

"I will not prolong my agony in this office or anywhere," said Mr Duterte, according to a transcript of his speech.

The President is awaiting the findings on "a growth" and is required to disclose the results only if these indicate a serious illness, said his spokesman Harry Roque.

The controversial leader, who is presiding over a deadly drug war that has killed thousands since he took office in June 2016, has long complained of having Barrett's oesophagus - an inflammation of the tube connecting the mouth to the stomach - caused by alcohol use when he was younger.

He has also acknowledged having daily migraine and spinal issues, in addition to an illness affecting the blood vessels called Buerger's disease, which was caused by smoking.

Mr Duterte said on Thursday that his acid reflux had got worse.

Three weeks ago, he underwent an endoscopy and colonoscopy, and on Wednesday, he cancelled his appointments so he could go to the hospital as his doctor had ordered more tests.

A few hours before Mr Duterte's admission, Mr Roque denied that the President was being hospitalised. Yesterday, Mr Roque denied he had lied, saying he did not know Mr Duterte's medical schedule.

He added that he could not continue in his role as spokesman after he was caught unawares by what was happening with the President. Mr Duterte has offered him another role.

Under the Constitution, the president is required to disclose any serious illness to the public, and will be replaced by the vice-president if he decides to step down.

Vice-President Leni Robredo is leader of the opposition Liberal Party. Mr Duterte, whose six-year term is scheduled to end in 2022, also said in his speech that he thinks Mrs Robredo is too "weak" to handle the presidency.

"I do not mean to offend the lady. She's very good. She's gentle, but she's really weak. She's not necessarily weak intellectually because she's a lawyer, but strategically weak," he said.

Mrs Robredo released a statement in response, urging Mr Duterte to rein in inflation and stamp out corruption instead of attacking critics.

"Nobody wants the President to get sick, but one shouldn't use an illness as an excuse to malign me again," she said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 06, 2018, with the headline 'Duterte will step down if health issues serious'. Print Edition | Subscribe