“The rumors about my death are slightly exaggerated” – MARK TWAIN
“To those who believe I have passed away, then I request of you, please pray for the eternal repose of my soul. Thank you.”- DUTERTE
RUMORS FLEW THICK AND WIDE, that president Rodrigo Duterte had passed away, when he skipped an engagement in Leyte recently. The last time he was seen was the other Tuesday- with -watching the premiere showing of the bio-flick of senatorial candidate Bato de la Rosa, his former PNP chief.
With the help of long-time partner Cielito “Honeylet” Avancena, Digong disclosed the statement above-looking none the worse for wear on video- and that denial event went viral.
Many times, rumors spike up easily whenever the president goes on an “unannounced disappearance” spurred no doubt about the health of the oldest elected Philippine president (now 73). In fact, the SWS revealed 60% of the Filipino people are worried about the president’s health and half are convinced Digong has health issues.
But the Palace has been forthright enough, admitting the president suffers from Buerger’s Disease caused by much smoking in the past and a spinal injury from a motorcycle incident.
In fact, his recent disappearance was admitted as caused by acute bronchitis and migraine related to his current spine injury.
Buerger’s Disease is a rare one- caused by inflammation of the blood vessels and can eventually lead to infection and gangrene. This can cause tingling and numbing of the arms and feet.
For the spinal injury, Duterte reportedly takes Fentanyl, a most potent painkiller -100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more than heroin. Two of its side effects (not for all users) are confusion and hallucination.
The Palace agrees that any serious illness of the president deserves to be publicly announced. Public welfare demands that.
However, no court, not even the Supreme Court can subpoena any medical record of the president.
Thus, any announcement from the government can be viewed as a communication PR work or a true-blue medical bulletin, sometimes dependent on one’s political stripes.
The Palace probably believes such disclosed illnesses are not life-threatening and not to be panicked over.
The succession law in the Philippines is very clear- a president can be legally succeeded by the elected vice president, Senate President, Speaker of the House in that order.
It becomes a contentious issue because Duterte and his vice president Leni Robredo (Liberal Party) do not see eye-to-eye. And Digong had publicly announced he would be comfortable leaving Malacanang if the reins fall into the hands of defeated VP candidate Bongbong Marcos.
Rappler reports this antagonistic rupture between the president and the vice president is true in many past administrations in the Philippines claiming that the chummy relationship between Fidel Ramos- Joseph Estrada and Gloria Arroyo and Noli de Castro were the only amiable tandems of top leadership in the nation.
Aside from the expulsion from power of Ferdinand Marcos and Joseph Estrada by People Power, there have been less than pleasant take-over of vice presidents of the vacated presidency.
On August 1,1944, the fiery president Manuel L. Quezon died of TB and vice president Sergio Osmena took over as head of the Commonwealth in Exile in the USA due to World War II. On April 17, 1948 VP Elpidio Quirino became president with the death of president Manuel Roxas.
On March 17, 1957, our own Boholano son Carlos P. Garcia found himself sitting in Malacanang after the fatal plane crash accident of president Ramon Magsaysay.
President Ferdinand Marcos tried so hard to keep away from the public knowledge about his serious kidney problems beginning in 1981. Dr Potenciano Baccay revealed Marcos actually hadtwo kidney transplants in 1983 and 1985. The doctor died of mysterious circumstances, reportedly.
True enough while in exile in the USA, Marcos died in 1989 due to complications of the kidney, heart and lung problems.
During their terms as president, three president so openly disclosed their medical procedures undertaken.
FVR had a blocked artery on the neck removed; Erap always had knee problems (explaining his funny walking);and GMA underwent breast and groin lumps removal in 2009.
An academic research in the USA also disclosed that half of the presidents of the country had medical conditions while serving in office. Woodrow Wilson suffered a stroke in 1919 (undisclosed) and lost the capacity to govern until his term expired in 1921. It was said that it was his wife Edith who actually run the presidency, imagine that?
Dwight Eisenhower had a serious hearts attack in his first term in 1955. With the public in the dark, Dwight was voted to his second term and lived through it well, fortunately.
While in office, John F Kennedy kept the American public blind of his Addison Disease, an adrenaline deficiency- until his assassination in Dallas, Texas.
The Palace had often explained that due to the punishing schedule of the presidency, Duterte sometimes cuts off some of the confirmed engagements when he feels his body needed rest. An instinct for survival.
But as we know, a president of a nation’s work is never done. It is a 24/7 job where urgent matters can wake one up in the middle of the night off one’s pajamas to address an emergency. Not ideal for a 73- year old man fighting daily with his admitted ailments.
Sometimes, we cannot begrudge the president for cancelling appointments at the risk of hazardous speculations and guess work o the public wary of his health condition. But at times,it has tobe done. One step backward to make two steps forward.
It is balancing act that presidents do until the day they give the mantel of leadership to the next heir.
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