Saturday , June 23, 2018

Seares: Must Duterte be also out of sight?

“Let’s just put it this way--he is resting for some time.”
-- Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, in Malacañang briefing yesterday, June 15, his fourth straight rest day

PRESIDENT Duterte skipped two important state functions last Monday, June 12: Independence Day rites and the “vin d’honneur” of foreign ambassadors. Wednesday, June 14, he didn’t show up at the anti-illegal drugs agency PDEA anniversary function and didn’t fly to Davao City as scheduled. Thursday, he still was not seen or heard from.

Expectedly, media asked, where has the president gone? Anything wrong? Which drew a flurry of explanations from key officials:

  • “He’s just resting. He was exhausted.”

  • “He didn’t have enough sleep. He’s 72.”

  • “Nothing wrong. He’s in excellent good health.” “On the road for 23 days has been brutal.”

In that order, the assurances came from his justice secretary, Vitaliano Aguirre II; his foreign affairs chief, Allan Peter Cayetano; and the president’s spokesman.

What’s up, doc?

Nothing from his doctor who should be far more credible to tell the nation about the state of health of the president. Abella said the president must have “consulted his experts.” But no doctor was telling what was up.

Whatever the source though, even if it was his doctor video-graphed in a lab coat and stethoscope, it wouldn’t be anything that would distress the people. Already worried over the fighting between state forces and terrorists in Marawi, the public doesn’t need the discomforting news that their president is anything short of being, according to Abella, “in excellent good health.” Excellent na, good pa.

Host of ailments

It’s not that his constituents don’t know how many diseases afflict Duterte. By his own admission, given in bits and pieces during the campaign and even after he assumed office, he’s suffering from acute bronchitis, Barrett’s esophagus, Buerger’s disease and a slipped disc.

Translated into symptoms from the four afflictions, he would feel, not in this order and maybe not simultaneously, “migraine, chest pain, pain on the cheek, pain on hands and feet, vomiting, difficulty in chewing, and even passing black, tarry or blood stool.”

‘Resting from people’

Knowing his ailments, media as surrogate of its public, must still ask where and how the president is. That’s their job. That may no longer infuriate him, as it did in 2016 when a broadsheet correspondent in Davao asked for Duterte’s medical certificate. But it must still disconcert his key officials who must scramble for a statement that would sound optimistic without being untruthful.

Surely the president must understand why media and other people ask. True, the government won’t shut down without Duterte being physically seen and heard from for a number of days, but he’s the person who leads and inspires; the nation rallies behind their president.

An official said Duterte’s private time includes “resting from the people.” Which must explain why he has kept out sight and hearing.