190407 Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte Image Credit: AP

Manila: President Rodrigo Duterte is in his residence at the presidential palace in Manila signing papers, his spokesman said, denying that the Philippine leader was confined in a hospital.

“I just talked to him,” spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement Sunday. “He’s neither confirming nor denying that he went to the hospital,” the spokesman said.

ABS-CBN News said in a report citing social media posts that Duterte was in a hospital in Metro Manila since Friday and that the medical centre was under tight security.

Duterte’s former aide Bong Go shared a photo of the leader sitting at a table and holding Sunday’s copy of The Philippine Star newspaper. Sara Duterte, mayor of Davao City, said she hadn’t received any report that her father was ill, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported.

Must speak up

The 74-year-old president has long complained of suffering from Barrett’s oesophagus — an inflammation of the tube connecting the mouth to the stomach — and said in October last year that he took tests to rule out a serious illness such as cancer. Duterte had previously acknowledged having daily migraine headaches, spinal issues as well as an illness affecting the blood vessels called Buerger’s disease which is caused by smoking.

The president is required under the country’s constitution to disclose any serious illness to the public, and will be replaced by the vice president if he decides to step down.

The incumbent vice president, Leni Robredo, is the leader of the opposition Liberal Party. She is facing an electoral protest over the results of the 2016 polls from former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., the son of the former dictator. Duterte, whose six-year term is scheduled to end in 2022, had said that he thinks Robredo is too “weak” to handle the presidency.

Midterm elections earlier this month showed that candidates backed by Duterte will dominate the Senate in the last three years of his term. Duterte triumphed despite global criticism for an anti-drug campaign that has killed thousands and for his government’s increasing pursuit of its critics, including independent journalist Maria Ressa.