No health issue, Panelo says of Duterte skipping Asean events
SINGAPORE—Scotching fresh rumors about his health, President Duterte on Thursday made light of his penchant for daytime dozes after Malacañang reported that taking “power naps” had caused him to miss a number of key meetings at the 33rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit here on Wednesday.
Duterte was attending the summit alongside a string of world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and US Vice President Mike Pence.
The President missed four of 11 meetings he was slated to attend, as well as a gala dinner hosted by Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, on the second day of the summit.
He arrived early at the summit venue on Thursday morning for another long day of meetings.
“What’s wrong with my nap?” Duterte, 73, told reporters when they asked him about his no-shows on Wednesday.
Asked if he was fully rested, Duterte replied: “Still not good enough, but enough to sustain the endurance for the last days.”
Malacañang gave assurance on Wednesday that Duterte would attend all of the events on the last day of the summit.
The President attended the Asean-India Informal Breakfast Summit and the 6th Asean-US Summit on Thursday morning.
But he missed the shoot for the “family” photo for the Asean-India summit.
He was represented by Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., who also filled in for him at the events he missed on Wednesday.
On Wednesday night, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Mr. Duterte decided to skip some events because he lacked sleep.
“He took power naps to catch [up] on sleep,” Panelo said, adding that “some quarters are making a big fuss of the President skipping a few meetings.”
Nothing to do with health
“We assure the nation that his aforementioned absence has nothing to do with his physical health and well-being, which have been the subject of speculation,” Panelo said.
Duterte’s health has been a constant source of speculation since he disappeared from public view for a week last year.
He has said openly that he is tired and would like to step down before his term ends in 2022.
Last month, Duterte missed two official events and a meeting with his Cabinet.
He later disclosed that he had undergone tests for colon cancer and that the tests came back negative.
In August, Duterte dropped out of public view for two days, with Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison claiming that the President had fallen into a coma.
But Duterte suddenly turned up in Cebu City, shown in a video taken by his longtime aide Christopher “Bong” Go dining at an undisclosed hotel with an unidentified woman.
Not first time
The President had missed events at international gatherings before.
He missed several events at the Asean Summit in Laos in September 2016 due to a “bad headache.”
During the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum in Lima, Peru, in November 2016, Duterte missed the gala dinner as well as the shoot for the traditional group picture.
In a message to his hosts, Duterte said he was sick.
The President has said previously that he suffers from daily migraines and other ailments, including Buerger’s disease, an illness that affects the veins and the arteries of the limbs and is usually due to smoking.
Despite his deadly crackdown on illegal drugs, Duterte also disclosed in 2016 that he used to take fentanyl, a powerful opiate pain killer, because of a spinal injury from a motorcycle accident.
In the Singapore summit, Panelo denied that Duterte picked only the meetings with China, Russia and Japan, whose leaders he considered personal friends.
“He considers the three leaders who were there, who addressed the members of Asean, very important, that’s why he attended,” Panelo said. —WITH REPORTS FROM AFP AND INQUIRER RESEARCH
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