PRESIDENT Duterte broke his silence on Monday night and went live via Facebook to say that he is “alive” and “fairly healthy,” quashing allegations made by Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria “Joma” Sison that he is in a coma.
The live video, which was taken and uploaded by Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence “Bong” T. Go, showed the President even having dinner with a woman from Davao named Vernice, who the President said is on leave from Harvard. The President said he invited the lady to discuss some things along the way.
“I’m alive, fairly healthy. And I am having a dinner with a beautiful lady in Davao,” Duterte said. “How can you be comatose with a beautiful lady? If I am really comatose, if I see Vernice, I will immediately get out of my bed.”
Reports said it was Frances Veronica Victorio, former chairman and now commissioner of the Climate Change Commission. Sought for confirmation on the lady’s identity, Go told the BusinessMirror that he does not know who the lady was.
This was the first time that the President spoke about the issue since talk spread over the weekend about his health condition.
According to the Constitution, the public shall be informed about the state of the President’s health in case of serious illness. The Cabinet members in charge of national security and foreign relations and the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines shall not be denied access to the President during such illness. The President even took a swipe against Sison and accused him of being the one who is ill and comatose.
“The truth is, the Netherlands is already complaining because you have been in and out of the hospital without paying,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino. “You are not paying and you are abusing the hospitality of the Netherlands.”
The President even suggested that Sison come home and said he will provide him a space in the New Bilibid Prison if he is sick.
Sison fled to Europe after peace talks failed in 1987 and has been abroad since.
“If you think you are sick, come home and I will bring you to a place, it’s called Bilibid,” he said. “But there I will provide you with a space, a bed and plenty to keep you company.” He also wished Sison what is considered akin to a biblical curse, made against a man doomed to stay alive and roam the Earth.
“Joma, my wish for you is to live about 1,000 years, although you have already no purpose in this world,” he said, noting that the man he once called his “friend” and professor will be like the reincarnation of a character who walks around planet Earth and does not die.
He’s sick, Joma insists
Responding to the video through a strongly worded Facebook post on Tuesday, Sison said he never claimed the report to be true and stressed that the report is still subject to verification or negation by the public appearance of Duterte and the release of a credible medical bulletin. However, after seeing the video, he still stood by his claim that the video appearance of the President still proves his allegations right.
“He looks like he just came from dialysis or some other kind of treatment on Sunday,” he said, adding that it also confirms the report on Saturday, August 18, that the President’s face was darker than usual and that he was slow and unstable while shaking hands with his Lex Talionis fraternity brothers.
“The video indicates that Duterte suffers from some serious illness, such as the aggravation of his self-admitted Buerger’s disease and or his kidney problem due to frequent use of pain killers, including fentanyl.” Someone with Buerger’s disease suffers from inflammation and thrombosis (blood clotting) in small and medium-sized blood vessels, usually in the legs, sometimes resulting in gangrene. The lower extremities are also often painful. It is associated with smoking. Duterte used to smoke.
Sison stressed that he does not have any death wish for the President, unlike the latter who seems to imply he’d rather see him dead.
“If the video showing Duterte hotel-dating a young woman was really recorded on Monday night [Davao time], I am pleased to see that Duterte is still alive and that there is a chance of his living long enough to be held accountable for his crimes against the people and be tried by the people’s court or by the International Criminal Court.”
Sison added: “In fact, I wish him to live long enough to receive a warrant of arrest, unlike the so many thousands of victims of Oplans Tokhang and Kapayapaan.”
He said the President’s irrationality and self-contradiction of his rants reflect his mental and moral condition, something that, Sison noted, made him believe that Duterte is unfit to be a president.