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Needless speculative frenzy over President’s health

May 21, 2019

Instead of letting our imagination and proclivity to gossip run away from us, we urge the government bureaucracy, the public and the media to take guidance first from the specific constitutional provision governing the occurrence of illness affecting the health of the President.

It is contained in Section 12, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution.

The Charter provides: “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 about 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 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.

It is important to remind everyone of this explicit constitutional provision, especially because there is currently an unhealthy outbreak of public speculation about President Rodrigo Duterte’s medical condition.

Critics and members of the political opposition have seized this situation as a chance to circulate wild public rumors and issue high-sounding statements about the issue. That does not help but contributes to public confusion.

Concern by most of our people about President Duterte’s health and well-being is understandable. We should be mindful of the impact of a serious presidential illness on the nation’s well-being as well and its relations with the world.

Like everyone, we want to be assured that the President is in good health and not facing any serious health problem.

But it must be stressed at this point 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 President has assured the nation, through his presidential spokesman, Salvador Panelo, that he will not fail to make full disclosure about his situation when there is need to talk about the matter. He will address the issue at the appropriate time, and he will ever keep in mind the welfare and well-being of our people.

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