President Rodrigo Duterte is back in public following a two-week absence that fuelled speculations about his health.
The president of the Philippines addressed the nation on April 12, dismissing talk about his supposed health problems.
Addressing his critics, Duterte said they should “pray harder” if they want him to die early.
“If you want me to die early, you must pray harder. Actually, what you intend or what you would like to happen is to see me go. You want me to go and you’re praying for that,” he said.
The Philippines is battling one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in Asia.
Hospitals in Metro Manila are reportedly overwhelmed amid record daily infections.
Meanwhile, authorities face delays in delivery of COVID-19 vaccines.
Duterte is 76 years old and has not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Duterte last appeared on television on March 29.
He cancelled his address scheduled on April 7 to minimise his exposure as there had been an increase in active cases of COVID-19 among his staff, including some of his security detail.
Duterte has known ailments, including back problems, migraines due to nerve damage after a motorcycle accident, Barrett’s oesophagus, which impacts his throat, and Buerger’s disease, caused by his heavy smoking.
His government is facing renewed criticism over its handling of the pandemic.
A surge in COVID-19 infections forced authorities to reimpose stricter curbs in the region of Manila and in nearby provinces for two weeks.
The restrictions will be eased from April 12.
Duterte said he was willing to give his own vaccination slot to someone who needed it more.
“If anyone wants to have it, they can have it,” Duterte said.
Duterte was seen on national TV on April 12 after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Malacañang Golf (Malago) Clubhouse in Malacañang Park.
The chief executive said he was attending to several papers that involved “agriculture” issues in the country.
“Nagpipirma ako doon series of ‘yong sa agriculture. Pinag-aralan ko, binabasa ko habang nagsasalita sila dito (I was signing a series of that in agriculture. I was studying it, I was reading it while they were talking),” said Duterte in a taped public address.
“I was really working on the papers trying to find out if it’s not — ah well, not in accordance with law. It must be lawful and you know we have to intrude into so many things. But in times of crisis, we are just about…ready to embark on something that can help the people especially on the food issue,” he added.
Duterte maintained that he doesn’t have any ailments that would hinder him in performing his duties as the president of the Philippines.
“Kung sabihin mo may sakit ako, may sakit ako. Pero kung sabihin mo may sakit ako ngayon that would prevent me from exercising the powers of the presidency, wala ho (If you say that I have a medical condition, I do. But if you say I have a medical condition that would prevent me from exercising the powers of the presidency, I don’t have),” he said.
He also defended the videos and photos released by Senator Christopher “Bong” Go on April 11 where Duterte can be seen jogging, golfing, and riding a motorcycle at night time.
“Kaya ako nakaka-swing ng golf tapos nagmo-motor kasi kaya ko pa (The reason why I swing my golf club and ride my motorcycle is because I can still do it),” he said.
“Gusto ko mag-motor tutal gabi naman (I like driving around, after all it’s night)… To ride at 2 o’clock in the morning, that is not taking away from people’s time,” he added.
During his talk, the president defended his previous trips to his hometown, Davao City.
“You know, the people must know that I am a resident of Davao City. I never pretended to be a resident of Sampaloc or Sta. Ana. Sinabi ko my residence is the City of Davao. And if I want to go home there on a reasonable basis, I can because that is my home,” he said.
However, he admitted to missing his daughter’s birthday on April 10 because he was busy attending to government papers.
“I missed my daughter’s birthday,” Duterte said.