MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte raised questions about his health on Thursday when he said in a public address that he had gone to a hospital for tests, a day after he missed a cabinet meeting and another event.
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.
“I don’t know where I’m now physically, but I have to wait for that,” Duterte told a dinner he hosted for soldiers and police officers at the presidential palace, in a speech that was televised nationally.
“But, I will tell you if its cancer, it’s cancer. If it’s third stage, no more treatment. I will not prolong the agony in this office or anywhere.”
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 Thursday 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.
Reporting By Manuel Mogato, editing by Larry King