Palace denies Joma's comatose claim: The President is fine and healthy

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 20) — Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque countered the claim of communist leader Jose Maria "Joma" Sison that President Rodrigo Duterte has gone into a coma.

Sison on Sunday night shared a photo of the President on Facebook, mentioning an unverified 'report' that Duterte has become comatose hours earlier.

He likewise pointed out a 'darkness' on Duterte's face, and that people, in an event last Saturday, noticed that the President's walk and handshake 'had become more unstable.'

In a media briefing Monday, Roque denied the allegations and reiterated that the President is fine and well.

"He's healthy. He was fine, he was in very high spirits," Roque told reporters.

"Joma Sison is a spent revolutionary and not a doctor, let's not listen to him," he added. "I don't even understand why Joma Sison said he was in a coma. He's in faraway Netherlands, how would he even know?"

Roque said Duterte had received a clean bill of health during his latest routine medical check-up, but the Palace found no need to release any public documents.

Roque added that the President will be attending an event in Cebu City on Tuesday, and he hopes the public appearance will be enough proof for critics to stop speculating on Duterte's health.

The health of Duterte, now 73 years old, has been an ongoing topic of public conversation. He claimed to be suffering from migraines in a recent speech, and was also reported to have visited the hospital on the eve of his third State of the Nation Address last month.

In 2016, he admitted to be suffering from frequent migraines, pain on his spine, and a nerve in his face because of a motorcycle accident years ago. He also admitted to be afflicted with Buerger's disease and Barrett's esophagus.

U.S.-based Mayo Clinic says Buerger's disease afflicts arteries and veins in the arms and legs, causing blood vessels to swell and become blocked with blood clots. 

It says Barrett's esophagus, often diagnosed in people who have long-term gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), causes tissue changes in the esophagus and increases the risk of developing esophageal cancer.

"Stop wishing him ill, as far as his health is concerned," Roque said in the briefing.

"Kasi everytime you wish him ill, lalong lumalakas (si Duterte). Kasing lakas naman ng kabayo yung Presidente."

(Translation: Because everytime you wish him ill, he only gets stronger. The President is as strong as a horse.)

While Roque slammed Sison for the remarks, he said the Palace is not closing its doors on possibly rekindling ties with the communist leader. The spokesperson, however, mentioned it will be hard to talk to Sison given the latter's 'imaginations.'

Special Assistant to the President Bong Go also countered the claim, saying he has talked to the 'resting' President on Monday early morning.

Meanwhile, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, in a text message, said the allegation was "absolutely false," and that unlike Sison, "the President is in robust health."