[UPDATED] Panelo says Duterte to take three-day leave, immediately does about-face

<I>Photo: ABS-CBN News, Photo: Bong Go / FB</I>
Photo: ABS-CBN News, Photo: Bong Go / FB

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo announced today that President Rodrigo Duterte would go on a three-day leave, only to reverse the statement within the span of just a few hours.

Read: Duterte back pain just ‘muscle spasm,’ says former assistant Senator Go

In initially announcing the brief leave during a press conference today, Panelo, perhaps not surprisingly, had told reporters that there were no serious reasons behind the president’s short vacay, adding that it didn’t even count as official leave. Duterte just needed to rest, the loyal spokesman added.

“As I’ve told the president, ‘Every time you have eight hours of sleep, your appearance improves,'” Panelo said. “I feel that is what he lacks. He always lacks sleep.”

Panelo also referred to the case of tycoon Lucio “Bong” Tan Jr., who died this morning due to a brain herniation (a condition wherein the brain’s tissue shifts due to a stroke or injury). An avid sportsman, Tan died after collapsing during a basketball game.

Noted non-doctor Panelo went on to assert that the businessman died of fatigue, while offering nothing in the way of proof to back up his conclusion.

“That’s what also happened to Bong [Tan]. Lack of sleep, too much work, overworked. Tired. Even while lacking too much sleep he had to play basketball,” Panelo said, elaborating on his highly unscientific armchair diagnosis.

Read: Philippine Airlines President Lucio “Bong” Tan Jr. dies of brain herniation at 53

Despite the president’s recent motorbike accident and much-publicized health issues, Panelo insisted that Duterte was not going on sick leave and that the president just needed to ease up on work.

He added that Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea would be in charge while the president is gone, and not Vice President Leni Robredo, whom he mockingly said was “very busy being anti-drug crime czar.”

A few hours after making the declaration, however, Panelo did a complete 180, saying that the president wouldn’t in fact be taking any time off, and would instead be working from his house in Davao City, the Philippine Star reported.

Panelo didn’t explain the rationale behind the reversal.

Duterte has been known to skip events and occasionally vanish from the public eye unannounced. In February, after he pulled one such stunt, he reappeared in a video on social media holding the day’s newspaper to dispel rumors he had passed away.


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