MANILA – Going into his last months in office, the health of President Rodrigo Duterte is under question again after he almost tripped and complained he was almost breathless at least twice while delivering his final State of the Nation Address (SONA) in the podium of the Batasang Pambansa.
Before climbing the podium, he was shown on nationally televised report that he appeared to lose his balance, prompting one of his security aides to hold him.
There were other moments during the SONA that Duterte’s walk appeared unstable. Stepping down from his helicopter, he stumbled and had to be caught by two aides. After his speech, he also appeared to lose his footing after taking a bow, causing two aides to rush to him.
The President said: “Hiningal ako. Baka dito pa ako mamatay pagkapresidente. Iba na ang pitik ng kasing-kasing ko. Kasing-kasing is puso (I am breathless. God forbid I die here as a president. There’s something different with my heartbeat.)”
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, however, was quick to explain, saying Duterte merely lost his footing because of the slippery carpet.
“Wala pong problema sa kalusugan ni Presidente. Medyo nadulas lang po siya (There’s no problem with the President’s health. He merely slipped),” Roque said. “Siguro dahil linis na linis iyan, eh madulas nang kaunti ‘yung carpet lalo kung ikaw ay naka-leather shoes (Perhaps, the carpet, since it was cleaned, is slippery, especially if you are wearing a leather shoes).”
Duterte himself explained later that somebody stepped on his feet and he wriggled in pain for a few minutes.
Duterte assured that he was okay after the SONA, saying he proceed to a restaurant in San Juan for dinner with family, dispelling reports that he was brought to the hospital.
Duterte was supposed to deliver his last SONA for just less than an hour, according to Malacanang, but he went through it for almost three hours, his longest SONA, interspersed with adlibs, including stating he could hardly breathe, and inquiring if there is an ambulance on standby..
The Chief Executive also exchanged pleasantries with some lawmakers after delivering his SONA and stayed at the Batasang Pambansa until 8:30 p.m.
Duterte, 76, has repeatedly assured the public that he can still perform his duties despite his admission that his ailments are taking a toll on his health.
Duterte has muscle spasms and is battling chronic back pains and migraines.
He also has myasthenia gravis, a chronic autoimmune neuromuscular disease that weakens skeletal muscles responsible for breathing and moving parts of the body.
Duterte is also suffering from Barrett’s esophagus, a potentially serious complication of gastroesophageal reflux disease, and Buerger’s disease, a rare disease of the arteries and veins in the arms and legs.
He also informed the public in October 2018 that the supposed “growth” found in his digestive tract tested negative for cancer.