DAVAO CITY (MIndaNews / 15 June) — President Rodrigo Duterte flew from Villamor Air Base in Pasay City Thursday night to spend the weekend here after a four-day absence — Monday to Thursday — that triggered speculations he fell ill.
“He is well. He is just getting needed rest after 23 intense days of supervising the Marawi situation,” Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a text message at 10:59 p.m. Wednesday in response to reports that started circulating Tuesday that the President suffered a stroke.
Malacanang Photos dispatched six photographs, four during the departure honors at Villamor Air Base, showing Duterte rendering a salute and shaking hands with Air Force officials using his right hand and two released earlier by Special Assistant Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, showing him beside Duterte and the other showing Duterte reading some papers on his desk in his residence, Malacanang’s Balay Pagbabago, an inverted pen between his pointer and middle fingers. The photographs, Go said, were taken at 5:52 p.m. Thursday.
Go’s photos, according to the caption sent by Malacanang Photos were “to quell rumors that the President is sick.”
Word had spread around on Tuesday that the President suffered a stroke, that his right arm was paralyzed and that he had been vomiting.
No arrival photos were dispatched by Malacanang Photos. A source from the Presidential Communications Office here told MindaNews the President upon landing transfered to a helicopter for home. “Derecho transfer sa chopper then to residence,” the PCO source said.
The President, who served this city as mayor for 22 years, comes home every weekend and from the airport usually takes a helicopter to his residence some 20 kilometers away to avoid the long convoy of security escorts.
Questions about the President’s health were raised as early as Monday, when he was a no-show at his first Philippine Independence Day celebration as President.
Duterte was again a no-show on Tuesday, and cancelled a guesting at the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency’s anniversary celebration on Wednesday.
The submission of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) supposedly on Thursday, June 15, had to be rescheduled.
BTC Executive Director Mike Pasigan told MindaNews they made a request for June 15 but received no confirmation.
“We are waiting for the fixed schedule of our submission of the BBL to the President,” BTC chair Ghazali Jaafar told MindaNews Wednesday.
Duterte’s last public appearance was on Sunday, June 11, when he visited Camp Evangelista Station Hospital in the afternoon to award medals to 84 soldiers wounded in action and in the evening, at the “Dignified Transfer of the Fallen Philippine Marine Corps Personnel” at Villamor Air Base in Pasay City.
No one asked Abella about the President’s whereabouts during the Mindanao Hour press briefing for Malacanang reporters on Wednesday but in the press briefing on Thursday, Abella was asked directly if the President is sick.
Abella’s reply, according to the official transcript: “The President is well. Is… The President just needs… After all, you have to consider that he has been on the road for at least 23 days regarding — fulfilling his martial law supervision. So, you know, it has been really brutal so we have to allow him this kind of rest.”
Asked when his next public appearance is, Abella said: “Well, you know, he’s taking some time off so I cannot really give you the definite date. But he’s just taking some time off to rejuvenate.”
Asked if Duterte had seen a doctor since Monday, Abella said he was “not privy to those matters” but “I am sure he has checked with his own experts.”
The President cut short his official visit to Russia to return to the Philippines and attend to the Marawi Crisis that entered Day 24 Thursday since clashes between government forces and the terrorist Maute Group started on May 23.
But before leaving Moscow, Duterte declared martial law in all of Mindanao’s 27 provinces and 33 cities effective 10 p.m. on May 23 (Philippine time), hours after the clashes left two soldiers and one policeman dead, and 12 others injured.
As of Wednesday, according to Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, Western Mindanao Command chief, 58 government forces had been killed while 294 others were wounded in action. He said 26 civilians were killed but 1,619 others were rescued. Galvez said 206 members of the Maute Group and its allied forces, were killed. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)