Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte 20191002
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte Image Credit: AP

Manila: President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines suffered bruises after falling off a motorcycle, his aides said Thursday, amid mounting public concern about his health.

He appeared later that day at a business forum in Manila, seemingly unhurt, and dismissed the accident as a minor incident.

His spokesman, Salvador Panelo, said earlier that Duterte, 74, stumbled off his bike Wednesday night at the compound of his security staff.

"While it is true that the president roamed around with his motorcycle, the incident occurred when he had already parked his motorcycle" at the security compound, Panelo said.

"The president was reaching for his shoe when he fell off his motorcycle," resulting "in a minor injury, particularly light bruises and slight scratches, to his elbow and knee," the spokesman added.

Erin Tanada, a spokesman for the opposition Liberal Party, said: "Any accident involving the president is a cause of national concern and interest. There must be a full and proper disclosure on his health and hospital records."

Earlier this month, Duterte revealed that he has a neuromuscular disease, which he said had led to issues including a drooping eyelid.

The condition, myasthenia gravis, is a chronic autoimmune disease that leads to skeletal muscle weakness. He said the disease ran in his family.

That and other developments have spurred public concern about Duterte's overall fitness and led the political opposition to urge more transparency about his health.

Last year, Duterte said he had undergone an endoscopy and a colonoscopy. He said doctors found that he had Barrett's esophagus, which is associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease, in which the contents of the stomach flow backward into the esophagus.

The president has also said he has Buerger's disease, which leads to constricted and inflamed blood vessels in the arms and legs.

Speculation about Duterte's health has grown with his recent absences from public view, which are out of character for a politician who has carefully cultivated a tough-guy image.

Duterte was elected president in 2016, vowing to rid the country of its drug problem. Since then, thousands of suspected addicts and drug dealers have been slain by the police and vigilantes in a brutal crackdown that has drawn international condemnation.

As mayor of the southern city of Davao, Duterte was known to cruise around on a motorcycle at night, with the intent of intimidating criminals and showing that the city was safe after nightfall.

In August, he slipped past his security detail and went for a quick ride on his motorcycle, alarming some of his aides.

"It only shows that since he is capable of riding on a motorcycle, he is in good health," Panelo had said. "That's what it means."