Palace maintains Duterte 'physically fit' despite skipping ASEAN events

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 20) —  Critics have again raised health issues against President Rodrigo Duterte for skipping a number of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) events, but Malacañang said on Tuesday the Chief Executive is in good physical condition.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the President has had a grueling schedule before the summit.

"(Is he physically fit?) Oh yes, he is punishing his schedule," Panelo said in a media briefing.

"That does not mean, as alleged by certain people, (that) it's laziness or he's seriously ill. It's fallacious."

In a chance interview with reporters during the ASEAN Summit in Singapore, Duterte said he needed to catch up on sleep to sustain his endurance.

But Panelo said Duterte skipped only the events that could be skipped, and that the President was present for the important ones.

"One, that is only an opening so it's not that important," Panelo said.

"Two three and four, he had to read only joint statements from ASEAN countries, and then there was going to be a discussion among the Presidents so he just tasked Secretary Locsin to read the statement for him."

"Did you notice us too? We were falling asleep.. Rather than be embarassed than fall asleep there, the camera focused on you, mag-power nap ka nalang muna, anyway, sandali lang naman 'yun," (just take a power nap, anyway, that won't take long) he added.

In contrast with Malaysia's Mahathir

Duterte's sleep catch-up drew criticisms from some people, especially those who had compared him to Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

The 93-year-old Mahathir, in an interview with Agence France-Presse during the same summit, said he does not know how he manages to still attend the events despite his age.

"I always attend meetings. It's my duty. If I can, I will. If I'm sick, I won't," he was quoted as saying.

Panelo, however, noted that age is not indicative of a person's state of health.

"For one, the physique of the two may not be exactly the same. There are people older and yet stronger than younger ones. It depends," he said.

Critics have being calling for transparency about the President's health by disclosing medical records or issuance of a regular medical bulletin. Duterte himself admitted to having several medical conditions.

In his previous speeches he said he suffered migraines, nausea, pain due to a spinal injury, Buerger's disease or a disorder affecting blood vessels, and Barrett's esophagus or a complication which causes heartburn or acid indigestion.