Instead of allowing our imagination and proclivity to gossip to wreak havoc on our collective psyche, we urge the government bureaucracy, the general public and the media to take guidance first from the specific constitutional provision governing the President’s health or occurrence of illness.
It is contained in Section 12, Article VII of the 1973 Constitution:
“In case of serious illness of the President, the public shall be informed of the state of his health. The members of the Cabinet in charge of national security and foreign relations and the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines shall not be denied access to the President during such illness.”
The provision is clear and precise. It speaks only of serious illness on the part of the President. It does not say that the public should be apprised of the results of every test or medical check-up that the President may desire to undergo during his tenure. It does not even suggest that competent doctors should issue periodic bulletins on the state of health of a sitting President.
The provision wisely leaves room for discretion on the part of the President and his doctor to judge what medical information should properly be disclosed.
We deem it important to remind everyone of the explicit constitutional provision because there is currently an unhealthy outbreak of public speculation about President Rodrigo Duterte’s medical condition.
It has been ignited by the fact that the President, accompanied by family members, flew during the weekend to Hong Kong for a quick break from work or a holiday. This was significantly preceded by the President’s disclosure that he recently checked into a hospital for some needed tests.
To say that these two developments have provoked alarm and anxiety is stating it mildly. One enterprising opinion survey firm immediately conducted a survey to ask Filipinos whether they believed Duterte was sick or not.
The political analyst of one network declared grandiosely that President Duterte should disclose his real health condition for “constitutional, historical, political and economic reasons.”
Members of the political opposition have predictably issued high-sounding statements about the urgent need for transparency on the issue.
When the Sunday Bulletin declared “Cure is possible” in its banner headline, many thought it had to do with Duterte’s possible illness. In fact, the paper was calling attention to the Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
We share the justifiable concern of most of our people about President Duterte’s health and well- being. And we are all too aware of how serious the impact of a President’s illness can be on the nation’s well-being.
Like everyone, we want the assurance that our President is well and we hope for the best.
What we want to stress at this point is that all of us ought to wait for reliable and competent information to be officially released before indulging in conjecture. We reject the tone of frenzy and sense of emergency in the speculation and questioning, because they will not lead to better public understanding but more likely to confusion.
The fact is, at this point, most of us do not know whether President Duterte is indisposed – mildly or otherwise.