The “unbearable pain” that prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to cut short his trip to Japan was merely caused by muscle spasm, his former assistant Senator Christopher “Bong” Go announced today in a press conference.
Duterte’s spokesman had said yesterday that Duterte was returning home immediately from Tokyo “due to [an] unbearable pain in his spinal column near the pelvic bone,” which was initially believed to have been caused by a recent motorcycle accident. But Go today maintained that the pain wasn’t the result of any serious injury.
“He is OK,” Go told reporters today in English and Filipino. “No need to worry because they’re muscle spasms. He consulted a doctor and he had an MRI and they didn’t see anything that we should worry about.”
Go added that doctors have advised the president to rest for two to three days. Duterte was also given painkillers by specialists.
Duterte had been in Tokyo with Senator Go and his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, to witness the accession ceremony of Emperor Naruhito yesterday, but prematurely returned to the Philippines last night. He was photographed hours later walking with a cane at the wake of his friend, former Senator Aquilino Pimentel, and today he visited neurologists, who ordered him to undergo medical tests.
“We were worried at first if he damaged his spine because he felt unbearable pain yesterday, but thank God there is nothing to worry about. The doctors checked during the MRI [to see] if a nerve got stuck that caused the pain, and there was nothing. They’re purely muscle spasms and the medicines that were given will ease those muscle spasms,” Go said.
The president missed Emperor Naruhito’s banquet, as well as a separate banquet hosted by Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, due to his early departure from Tokyo. He was represented by his daughter at both events.
Duterte’s health has long been a subject of much speculation due to his tendency to disappear from public view for days at a time. Rumors about his ill health even cropped up after he appeared with a newly darkened complexion last year. Duterte first blamed the discoloration on sunburn, then on his girlfriend’s skin cream, and then on “karma.”
Discussion of Duterte’s health certainly wasn’t dampened by his admission, just this month, that he has myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune disorder that can cause blurred vision, among other things.
Duterte has at times proven sensitive to the speculation. In January, he even threatened to slap a newspaper columnist for alleging that he had a kidney transplant and had visited a famous cancer hospital in China for treatment.