PHILIPPINE President Rodrigo Duterte has dismissed rumors surrounding his health after almost two weeks away from the public eye.
His absence comes as the country faces one of the worst coronavirus surges in Southeast Asia with hospitals overwhelmed and infection rates continuing to climb.
Meanwhile, a little over 1 million residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as shipment delays have hindered the country’s mass vaccination campaign.
The chief executive on Monday night, April 12, said he was attending to several papers that involved “agriculture” issues in the country.
“Nagpipirma ako doon series of ‘yong sa agriculture. Pinag-aralan ko, binabasa ko habang nagsasalita sila dito (I was signing a series of that in agriculture. I was studying it, I was reading it while they were talking),” said Duterte in a taped public address.
“I was really working on the papers trying to find out if it’s not — ah well, not in accordance with law. It must be lawful and you know we have to intrude into so many things. But in times of crisis, we are just about…ready to embark on something that can help the people especially on the food issue,” he added.
Duterte maintained that he doesn’t have any ailments that would hinder him in performing his duties as the president of the Philippines.
“Kung sabihin mo may sakit ako, may sakit ako. Pero kung sabihin mo may sakit ako ngayon that would prevent me from exercising the powers of the presidency, wala ho (If you say that I have a medical condition, I do. But if you say I have a medical condition that would prevent me from exercising the powers of the presidency, I don’t have),” he said.
He also defended the videos and photos released by Senator Christopher “Bong” Go on Sunday, April 11 where Duterte can be seen jogging, golfing, and riding a motorcycle at night time.
“Kaya ako nakaka-swing ng golf tapos nagmo-motor kasi kaya ko pa (The reason why I swing my golf club and ride my motorcycle is because I can still do it),” he said.
“Gusto ko mag-motor tutal gabi naman (I like driving around, after all it’s night)… To ride at 2 o’clock in the morning, that is not taking away from people’s time,” he added.
Addressing his critics, Duterte said they should “pray harder” if they want him to die early.
“If you want me to die early, you must pray harder. Actually, what you intend or what you would like to happen is to see me go. You want me to go and you’re praying for that,” he said.
During his talk, the president defended his previous trips to his hometown, Davao City.
“You know, the people must know that I am a resident of Davao City. I never pretended to be a resident of Sampaloc or Sta. Ana. Sinabi ko my residence is the City of Davao. And if I want to go home there on a reasonable basis, I can because that is my home,” he said.
However, he admitted to missing his daughter’s birthday on April 10 because he was busy attending to government papers.
“I missed my daughter’s birthday. Talagang hindi ako nakapunta doon because nagpipirma ako doon series of ‘yong sa agriculture (I really wasn’t able to go there because I was signing papers related to agriculture). I was really working on the papers,” said Duterte.
The Philippines — which has one of the world’s longest and strictest lockdowns — has recorded more than 884,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 15,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.