Philippines’ Duterte says underwent cancer testing

Duterte’s (above) frequent disappearances have fuelled rumours he is in declining health.
Duterte’s (above) frequent disappearances have fuelled rumours he is in declining health.PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA (AFP. REUTERS) - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has revealed that he is awaiting the results of fresh medical tests, adding that “if it’s cancer, it’s cancer”.

Duterte, 73, is the oldest person ever to be elected president in the country and speculation about his health has cropped up regularly since he took power in 2016.

In a speech late Thursday the president said he underwent an endoscopy and colonoscopy about three weeks ago but that he was advised this week to repeat the tests.

“I don’t know where I’m at now physically, I have to wait for that. But I would tell you that if it’s cancer, it’s cancer,” he said.

“And if it’s third stage, no more treatment. I will not prolong my agony in this office or anywhere,” he added.

He missed a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

Duterte has disappeared from public view before. He was not seen for a week last year, fuelling speculation he was ill. The government insisted then the speculation was baseless.

But this was the first time he seemed to confirm he might have health problems.

Executive secretary Salvador Medialdea confirmed the president underwent a colonoscopy on Wednesday, a procedure the president "submits to on a yearly basis".

He underwent the same test three weeks ago, but his doctors wanted to get more tissue samples, Duterte said.

But presidential spokesman Harry Roque told a news briefing early on Thursday that Duterte got tired and took a day off, denying rumours he had been admitted to a hospital.

Known for a busy schedule and long speeches, often several a day, the 73-year-old Duterte's frequent disappearances have fuelled rumours he is in declining health and that the government is trying to keep that under wraps.

After a trip to Israel and Jordan last month, Duterte said his skin was burned by his long exposure to desert sun when the public notice discoloration in his face.

Before addressing Congress in late July, Duterte also made a routine check at a hospital and his aides were quick to say there was nothing wrong with his health.