By Perry Diaz
When President Rodrigo Duterte revealed last December 12 that he’s suffering from several health problems, it sent a shock wave across the country. To his supporters he was healthier and stronger than a carabao. “He must be joking again,” his ardent supporters would say, knowing that what he says usually cannot be taken seriously. They’re used to his “clowning” – including the use of profanity — and some people would jokingly call him, “Comedian-in-Chief.” At one time, he admitted that he is bipolar. But again, people thought he was just trying to be funny. But as it turned out, his sickness is no joking matter; it’s very… very real! And this brings to fore the question: Is he capable of governing 100 million Filipinos with a clear mind and cognitive ability to discern what is good and right for the people? Some people believe otherwise. Read on…
Last December 12, at the Wallace Business Forum held in Malacañang, Duterte admitted that he’s taking Fentanyl patches – sometimes two at a time — to relieve severe migraine and chronic pain on his spinal cord. He said his doctor advised him to stop taking more than what’s needed because he’d lose his cognitive abilities, which are brain-based skills a person needs to carry out any task from the simplest to the most complex.
Duterte also revealed that he has Barrett’s esophagus, a condition in which the esophagus changes. He said he also has Buerger’s disease (caused mainly by smoking), a rare disease of the arteries and veins in the arms and legs. But he made it a point to say that he has no cancer. However, according to an article written by Philip Lustre Jr., a free-lance journalist, Duterte has cancer.
Last September 11, 2015, Lustre posted on his Facebook account the following: “DUTERTE HAS CANCER. Just yesterday, somebody leaked the information to me that Davao City Rodrigo Duterte has cancer of the throat. He was not playing close-open type of politics when he said he could not decide to run for the presidency in 2016. In fact, he was dead-sure he would not run for any post in 2016, but instead retire.
“His family is strongly against any presidential run for him because the nationwide political campaign would exacerbate his throat cancer. His health condition could cascade to terminal stage. The info was given to me by a reliable source, who was not authorized to speak about his illness. Duterte likewise indicated his current physical state in an open forum he had with ABC-5 very recently. Somebody in the audience asked Duterte why he was frequently holding the left side of his jaw and neck. Duterte made reference to his health situation cascading from Stage One to Stage Four without categorically saying that he has the Big C.
“In that open forum, he also gave reference to his family’s insistence for him not to run for president. He likewise referred to the unhealthy situation of his spine. Since he is 70 years ago, those health issues could cascade to bigger issues and proportions. I was also told that Duterte admitted to a vice presidential candidate that he indeed has cancer of the throat. He told the vice presidential candidate that their camp had to wait for his decision because of health issues, which he had to confront.
“This is the reason he could not decide despite the frequent encouragement by his fans for him to run for president. No, he was not playing coy; no, he was not making fun of the country. But let it be said that Duterte has the moral obligation to make clear to the country his current health situation. Since he is frequently described as a potential presidential candidate, it is his duty to make a full disclosure of every single detail of his health situation.”
But his medical problems don’t seem to be “physical” only. There was documentation of his mental state that goes back two decades. In her column, “This is a national problem” (Inquirer, Dec. 10, 2016), columnist Solita Collas-Monsod said that in 1998, a psychological evaluation was performed on Duterte, which was required in the annulment proceeding brought by his ex-wife Elizabeth Zimmerman against him. Collas-Monsod said that Dr. Natividad Dayan, the former president of the International Council of Psychologists, who did the evaluation, was quoted extensively in the media, as follows:
“Dr. Dayan found that Mr. Duterte was suffering from ‘Antisocial Narcissistic Personality Disorder,’ a condition characterized by ‘gross indifference, insensitivity and self-centeredness,’ ‘grandiose sense of self-entitlement and manipulative behaviors,’ and ‘pervasive tendency to demean, humiliate others and violate their rights and feelings.’
“She found him to be a ‘highly impulsive individual who has difficulty controlling his urges and emotions.’ And she described him as having a ‘pervasive tendency to demean, humiliate others and violate their rights and feelings,’ and was ‘unable to reflect on the consequences of his actions.’
“There’s more. He was found to readily engage in ‘unhealthy and destructive behaviors’ and had ‘poor capacity for objective judgment,’ failing to ‘see things in the light of facts.’
Collas-Monsod then editorialized, to wit: “Read the past three paragraphs again, Reader, and apply them to his behavior as President, including the recent cases involving the Vice President and the murder of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa. You will surely have an ‘Aha!’ moment, as I did.
“Now we understand why Malacañang is always scrambling to explain that he didn’t really say, or mean, what we had all heard him say, or mean.
“This is a national problem, not only Mr. Duterte’s. It is said that recognizing the problem is halfway toward its solution. The other half has to involve our best doctors (a presidential medical advisers panel?), Cabinet members, and all Filipinos of goodwill.”
Indeed, with what Mr. Lustre and Ms. Collas-Monsod illustrated about President Duterte’s physical condition and mental health, the country and its people are put in a risky situation. And this begs the question: Did Duterte compromise the presidency when he ran for president? And would it be in the best interest of the country, if he recognizes his inability to perform the duties of the president and therefore step down from the presidency?