The President’s health » Manila Bulletin News

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By Leandro DD Coronel

Leandro DD Coronel

There was a lot of concern about President Duterte’s health because he was out of the public’s gaze for several days.

The President’s handlers said their boss was fine, not to worry. Bong Go, the second most powerful person in the country, released photographs showing an up-and-about Mr. Duterte. But many observers didn’t believe the pictures were authentic, meaning that they’re weren’t current. People demanded proof of life, like photos showing a healthy president holding the day’s newspaper.

Do the people have a right to demand proof of the state of the President’s health?

Article VII, “Executive Department,” Section 12 of the Constitution states: “In case of serious illness to the President, the public shall be informed of the state of his health. The members of the Cabinet in charge of national security and foreign relations and the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines shall not be denied access to the President during such illness.”

Thus, it’s the responsibility and duty of the President’s men to inform the public of the state of his health. The public wants to know all the time that their chief executive is in good physical and mental condition and fully in charge of the affairs of state.

Remember that then candidate Duterte bristled at a reporter’s insistence that he reveal his health condition. And he also has said many times that he may not be able to finish his term without giving a reason. Is his health the reason for his own speculation that he may not last long?

Perhaps our election rules should be amended to include that every candidate is obligated to present a duly sworn medical certificate that he or she is fit to hold office.

Nobody outside the President’s inner circle knew the true condition of his health. It shouldn’t be this way. The people are entitled to know the full state of their leader’s condition.

Mr. Duterte has shown many times that he’s hard-headed and that he doesn’t always care about public opinion especially if the clamor comes from his critics or perceived enemies.

That’s contrary to responsible leadership. A leader must not only lead; he or she also must listen and follow the people. As the saying goes, a good leader has to be a good follower, meaning he should have the pulse of the nation and is guided by it accordingly.

The President holds his position of leadership because the people put him there, entrusted him with their confidence and welfare, and bestowed him with the powers of state to ensure their safety, livelihood, and a reasonably bright future.

That explains the people’s anxiety over the situation in which they didn’t see their leader for many days. Some wags even said they missed his cursing and rough ways.

Frankly, the President and his handlers were being unfair to the people by withholding information, if there’s any, that may indicate that Mr. Duterte is in poor health. The President’s health is directly tied to the country’s well-being, the country’s health, as it were.

And then he showed up in Butuan City.  Truth to tell, social media was abuzz with anticipated jubilation over the possible demise of the President. He shouldn’t blame his detractors for that; they simply haven’t been impressed with his leadership so far.

This column has been hard on Mr. Duterte for reasons that I dare say are well-founded, principally the extrajudicial killings but also his chronic cursing, uncouth manners, callousness over other people’s misfortunes, foreign policy directions, and many others including and especially his abominable remarks about raping women.

But it would still be tragic for him personally and for many segments of the population if he were to expire before he finishes his term. Many will be unhappy but many others will not be so.

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Tantrum Ergo. Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre resorted to the “I was misquoted” excuse when he said he never tagged some opposition personalities with connivance with the Maute Group. Then came Sen. Cynthia Villar denying she said she wanted to ban “unli” rice in eateries. How could she say that when her statement that “dapat ipagbawal na ‘yang unli rice na ‘yan” is recorded on video tape?

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