Pres. Duterte boards the plane at Jorge Chavez International Airport, in Lima Peru at the end of the 2016 APEC Leaders meeting. Malacanang photo by Simeon Celi, Jr.

The public’s right to know about the President’s health

PRESIDENT Duterte’s absence in two traditional events in the 2017 summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation or APEC once again raises the need for Malacañang to inform the public of the health of the 71-year old chief executive.

We know it’s a sensitive subject for Duterte but the public’s concern is valid and recognized by the Constitutional provision of “the right of the people to information on matters of public concern.”

Section 12 of Art. VII states that, “In case of serious illness of the President, the public shall be informed of the state of his health. “

Malacañang may say that the President has no “serious illness.” Fine. A medical bulletin would put a stop to rumors going around about the President’s health.

In Lima, Peru, Duterte told reporters that the reason for his absence in the gala dinner Saturday and the group photo on Sunday was jet lag.

““Alam mo kung bakit? Jet lag.Hindi naman ano but lightheaded because exactly at that time that’s my sleeping time back home in the Philippines. Talagang ang mata ko hindi ko mapigilan minsan and even as I was listening to the others, magsasara yung mata ko. Sabi ko mag-uwi na lang muna ako.” (You know why? Jet lag. It’s not really lightheaded because exactly at that time that’s my sleeping time back home in the Philippines. I really cannot control my eyes and even when I’m listening to others, my eyes close. So I said, I’ll go home first.)

If his skipping the dinner afforded him the chance to sleep, it’s a puzzle why he was not able to make it to the group photo session Sunday afternoon. The photo of the Leaders in the host country’s native attire is the picture that symbolizes APEC unity for that particular year.

All the 20 countries were represented by their highest official in the photo session except the Philippines that was represented by a cabinet member – Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay.

Yasay must have been elated but how about the other leaders, especially the host, Peru President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski?

No Duterte in APEC 2016 Leaders Meeting photo in Lima, Peru. Photo from www.apeg.org

Former President Fide3l V. Ramos said the gala dinner could have been an opportunity for Duterte to exchange ideas with world leaders which could be helpful for the country in the future.

It was not the first time that Duterte skipped a scheduled meeting in a Leaders Summit. He was a no-show at the ASEAN- United States meeting during the 2016 ASEAN summit in Laos last September. Presidential Adviser Jesus Dureza said the President ”was not feeling.”

Back in Manila, Duterte said the real reason he did not attend the meeting was he does “not like the Americans.”

During the campaign in February, Duterte skipped a forum with doctors when he suffered migraine.

Duterte is overly sensitive about questions concerning his health. Last July, he went ballistic when a reporter asked for his medical report. His reply was to ask the reporter how the vagina of his wife smelled.

The foul retort runs counter to his claim of transparency in his governance. He even issued an executive order on Freedom of Information that will take effect on Nov. 25.

A post- Peru trip medical bulletin would underscore the effectiveness of his FOI order.

FOR FURTHER READING

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