President Rodrigo Duterte has decided to cut short a trip to Japan due to “unbearable” pain caused by a recent accident, his spokesman Salvador Panelo announced today.
Last week, the 74-year-old president reportedly had a motorcycle accident inside Malacañang Palace’s compound. Accounts of what transpired vary: According to Panelo, Duterte fell over because he was reaching for his shoe, which had gotten stuck in the bike. Meanwhile, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, the president’s former assistant who witnessed the accident, said the president tipped over while making a turn. One of the president’s bodyguards, on the other hand, maintained Duterte didn’t have an accident at all.
As it turns out, the president really did have an accident, with photos sent by Go from Tokyo showing the Duterte leaning on a cane.
“The Palace announces that the President will cut short his trip to Japan due to unbearable pain in his spinal column near the pelvic bone as a consequence of his fall during his motorcycle ride last Thursday, October 17,” Panelo said in a statement.
Duterte, Go, and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, also the president’s daughter, were in Japan to witness the accession of Emperor Naruhito today.
The president will be back in Manila this evening so he can consult a neurologist tomorrow, Panelo said. He was originally scheduled to return to the Philippines on Thursday.
Because of his early departure, the president will miss the new Japanese emperor’s banquet tonight, as well as Prime Minister Shinzō Abe’s banquet tomorrow. Mayor Sara will attend both events on his behalf.
Panelo insisted that in spite of the change of plans, the president is doing fine. “While this was unforeseeable, the public can rest assured that there is nothing to worry [about with] regards [to] the physical health and condition of the President as he gives serious priority thereto in actively serving our country,” Panelo said.
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 darker 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.
Still, 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.