Rumor goes viral…again

It happens every time, and it happened again this week as expected.

After being out of the public eye for an extended period – by definition more than two days because he happens to be the country’s chief executive – rumors spread that “something” had happened to President Rodrigo Duterte.

Malacanang did not help any after two versions were given for the president’s absence from an event in Iloilo, indicating that no one knew the truth for sure.

Rumors flew fast and furious because of this, most of which involved the president’s supposedly failing health. A couple of my media friends were also in the dark, but knowing them to be no fans of Mr. Duterte, they simply repeated what the antis were saying: the president was either dying, or – horrors! – was already dead.

Duterte fans and fanatics were relieved when the president finally made a public appearance after an absence of one whole week.

That’s right, one week. So what was he doing during his sabbatical from the public?

His spokesman Sal Panelo, who has become an expert at not giving straight answers to simple questions, did his usual schtick. Think of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, but even less credible and on steroids.

The best answer that came from the Palace spin doctors was that the president “was not feeling well.”

I, for one, will buy that. He is, after all, a very senior citizen, one who has admitted many times in the past that he has a number of health issues. He has not always been specific about what ails him, but what the hey.

His admission early in his term as president that he was taking fentanyl regularly told us enough. He said he was taking the dangerous drug on doctor’s orders. Never mind that he practically admitted that he is a drug addict since fentanyl has been proven to be highly addictive.

Mr. Duterte’s drug of choice is considered as one of the world’s most dangerous illegal drugs because it turns the brain into mush. As such, drug lords like to engage in its spread since anyone who gets hook gets hooked for life.

This is not to say the Mr. Duterte went on some fentanyl binge and was wasted somewhere, surrounded by his sycophants. Since last December, many of my friends and relatives had gotten sick of a seemingly new flu strain. I was also victimized, and was bedridden for about two weeks, taking another couple of weeks to fully recover.

The Department of Health admitted that there was a rise in flu cases, notably in Metro Manila, but fell short of calling it an epidemic.

A doctor-friend told me that there was indeed a dramatic increase in the number of flu cases, and the two hospitals where he maintains clinics were almost full. He, too, was hesitant to use the dreaded ‘e’ word, only admitting that the uptick in the number of cases was “not normal.”

So there. In all likelihood, President Duterte only fell victim to the flu. End of story.

Or is it?

I’ve said this many times, but there is ample proof that Rodrigo Duterte may no longer be in full control of his facilities. Just take a look at videos of him just before he became president, and compare them with how he acts and speaks now.

Supposed experts have been saying the same thing about US President Donald Trump, whose facility with language is on a serious downswing. This is why he keeps repeating himself, and his language is closer to a six-year-old than an adult in full control of his senses.

It would seem that Messrs. Trump and Duterte share much in common. They are both showing signs of early dementia.

The US president is luckier, I suppose. He has never smoked or touched alcohol. This alone tells us that he is generally healthier than his Philippine counterpart. Mr. Trump also plays golf all the time, doesn’t he? So on the plus side, he gets plenty of fresh air. On the negative side, he should be ashamed of himself since he blamed his predecessor Barack Obama of spending too much tine on the greens, when in fact Mr. Trump has played more rounds of golf in his first year in office than Mr. Obama did in his eight years as president.

But I digress.

The subject is Mr.Duterte’s health, and as far as the general public knows, he is still alive and breathing. But just like Mr. Trump’s tax returns, the Philippine president is keeping his state of health a closely guarded secret.

The one indication that he may be unwell is when he asked the people to pray for him. What I want to know is if he wants Filipino Catholics – who make up around 85 percent of the population – to also pray for him, even after he has insulted them and their religion dozens of times.

But yes, why not? I will pray for the guy. He needs it.