Duterte Says Recent Tests Show He Doesn't Have a Serious Illness

(Bloomberg) -- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte doesn’t have a serious illness and he’s keeping his health status private as allowed by law, his spokesman Harry Roque said Tuesday.

“The president will comply with the constitutional provision that unless he has a serious illness he wants to treat his medical condition as being private and covered by confidentiality,” Roque said at a media briefing.

Roque said it was up to Duterte to decide if he will divulge further information on his health status. Roque said that while he doesn’t have access to all information concerning Duterte’s health, the president doesn’t have a life-threatening condition.

Duterte’s acting Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano told reporters separately that the president announced during Monday night’s cabinet meeting that tests on samples taken from his intestines yielded negative results.

The 73-year-old leader who has long complained of suffering from Barrett’s esophagus -- an inflammation of the tube connecting the mouth to the stomach -- revealed last week that he had tests to rule out a serious illness like cancer. Duterte had previously acknowledged having daily migraine headaches, spinal issues as well as an illness affecting the blood vessels called Buerger’s disease which is caused by smoking.

Increasing uncertainty over Duterte’s health has put the sensitive issue of succession into focus with the president publicly declaring his reluctance to see Vice President Leni Robredo -- the leader of the opposition party -- take his place.

House Speaker Gloria Arroyo, a Duterte ally and herself a former president, brought up for congressional debates a proposal for a new constitution on Monday that included a provision to prevent Robredo from succeeding Duterte should he step down during the transition period to a new federal form of government.

It would also see the president of the Senate become interim president. Arroyo’s proposed charter would scrap term limits for lawmakers, and not include any ban on political dynasties.

Under the current constitution, the president is required to disclose any serious illness to the public and will be replaced by the vice president if he decides to step down.

Duterte, whose six-year term is scheduled to end in 2022, said on Thursday that he thinks Robredo is too “weak” to handle the presidency. He previously said he would rather have Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of the former dictator, take his place.

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