by Jaimie Rose Aberia and Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada has called on those demanding a full disclosure of President Duterte’s health condition to give him the privilege of being alone for a while as the job of a president is hard.
Estrada said he understands that Duterte is currently in a difficult situation because the country is beset with many problems, particularly the almost month-long crisis in Marawi City.
“Let’s give him the privilege of being alone for a while. It’s hard to be a president, ‘di lang ‘yan ang problema ng bansa,” Estrada said.
Duterte skipped the Independence Day ceremony at the Rizal Park last June 12 and was not seen in public for five days.
The President quelled speculations on his health by resurfacing on Saturday. He told newsmen that his health was immaterial and that his five-day absence was due to a “secret trip” that he had to take.
“Nanggaling na ako diyan, e, palagay ko nagpapahinga lang,” Estrada said.
Several senators, including detained senator Leila De Lima, are calling on Malacañang to publicly divulge Duterte’s state of health, saying the President’s health is a matter of public interest and of national security.
When he was president, particularly during his all-out war against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2000, Estrada recounted that he, too, found it hard to sleep at night, causing him physical and mental stress.
“I don’t like giving excuses now,” he said, “eh ako din nu’n, ‘pag maraming namamatay na sundalo, ‘di rin ako makatulog.”
Estrada speculated that Duterte could have spent more time with his advisers planning on how to end the armed conflict in Marawi and looking for solutions to the country’s many problems.
“Siguro, iniisip nila how to solve the problems of the country – economy, peace and order, everything. ‘Di basta-basta maging pangulo eh,” he added. “Let’s just all wish him good health, and pray,” Estrada said.
According to the President, he just took a break as he was exhausted. He also revealed that he took a secret trip to some place in Mindanao.
“I went on a trip somewhere. I cannot divulge it. I had to go there incognito. ‘Yun ang totoo (That’s the truth),” Duterte said.
“Confidential but I said I traveled like a private citizen para lang maka-abot doon sa gusto kong puntahan. ‘Yun lang (to get to the place I wanted to go to. That’s it),” he added.
Duterte’s five-day private time was hounded by speculations about a worsening health condition, prompting Special Assistant to the President Christopher Go and Malacañang to release photographs showing the President working.
The President was last seen in public when he paid his last respects to eight of the 13 marine soldiers who perished in Marawi City last week, at the Villamor Airbase in Pasay City on June 11.
Duterte was absent during the 119th anniversary of the Philippine Independence in Rizal Park, Manila.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said the President skipped the celebration for a much needed rest.
In an event in Cabadbaran, Agusan del Norte also on Saturday afternoon, Duterte explained that it was not his intention to skip the Independence Day celebration but said his body badly needed a rest.
“It’s not that I snubbed Independence Day. My body was overwhelmed. I really needed to rest,” Duterte said in Bisaya.
“Do not worry. There is the Vice President who will take over. My state of health is immaterial. Kasi ang importante na may (What’s important is there is a) successor,” he added.
“Sabihin mo na lang doon sa mga kalaban ko na magdasal na lang kayo (Tell my critics to just pray),” he added.
Malacañang on Thursday reiterated that Duterte is not suffering from any serious medical condition and appealed to the public to let the Chief Executive take a rest from his hectic schedule.
“The President is well. The President just needs [rest]. After all, you have to consider that he has been on the road for at least 23 days regarding him fulfilling his martial law supervision,” Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said Thursday.
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