October 5, 2018 / 6:58 AM / 2 months ago

Philippines' Duterte spokesman promises to tell public about leader's health

MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will let the public know if he has a “serious illness”, his spokesman said on Friday, a day after the leader said in a public address that he had gone to a hospital for tests.

FILE PHOTO: President Rodrigo Duterte speaks after his arrival, from a visit in Israel and Jordan at Davao International airport in Davao City in southern Philippines, September 8, 2018. REUTERS/Lean Daval Jr.

Rumors of Duterte’s health woes re-emerged after the 73-year-old president, known for a busy schedule and long speeches, missed two official events on Wednesday, including a meeting with the cabinet.

In a televised speech Thursday night, Duterte told top security officials he went to a private hospital for a procedure as his doctors wanted to get more tissue samples.

He did not elaborate but said in the same speech: “I will tell you if its cancer”.

“The result of the examination, whether or not it can be made public will depend on what they find out,” Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque told a news briefing, citing a provision in the Philippine constitution on public disclosure of the president’s health conditions.

“The president is not inclined to hide anything about his health. I assure the public, the president will not hide anything. If it is serious, he will inform the nation.”

Under Philippine laws, if a sitting president dies in office, permanently disabled or removed through impeachment, the vice president succeeds to serve the remaining years in a six-year, single term.

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

Roque said he was kept “in the dark” about the president’s trip to a hospital, which he said was for an endoscopy procedure.

“Endoscopy was recommended, from his own words, because they wanted to be sure that there was a growth and they wanted to know more about the growth”, Roque said. “That is the context of why he said ‘if its cancer’”, he said.

When asked if the president was dying, Roque said: “I don’t think so”.

Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Michael Perry

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