MANILA – As the saying goes, the news of his death were greatly exaggerated.
After being out of the public eye for a full week, President Rodrigo Duterte reappeared on Monday, Feb. 4, looking none the worse for wear.
In his usual display of offbeat humor, Mr. Duterte said, “For those who believe in the news that I passed away, I request of you please pray for the eternal repose of my soul. Thank you.”
The news of Mr. Duterte’s supposed demise spread like wildfire throughout all of last week, particularly in social media.
And it was through social media that the president, through his partner HoneyletAvancena, dispelled the rumor by showing a newspaper dated this week.
Ms. Avancena posted on her Facebook site a brief video of the president, who was casually dressed and was munching on what appeared to be crackers.
It was not the first or second or even third time that Mr. Duterte had disappeared from public view. On previous occasions, Malacanang simply dismissed the president’s absence with the generic statement that he was “not feeling well.”
Concerns have been raised about the true state of his health because of the grey pallor of his face of late, compared to his more vibrant look when he was still campaigning for president.
This time around, Malacanang said there was no need to issue a health bulletin since the president simply fell victim to the flu.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said Malacanang was not overly concerned about the rumored death of the chief executive.
“We’re used to that anyway. So let it be,” Panelo told media this week.
He blamed critics of the administration for spreading the lie or “fake news” as has been popularized by US President Donald Trump.
Mr. Duterte may not be Superman, said Panelo, but he was “ready to rumble” after a few days of rest.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea supported Panelo by saying the president was “just fine.”
The Philippine Constitution states that the public must be informed in the event of serious illness affecting his/her ability to perform the job of chief executive of the republic.