POSTSCRIPT / September 25, 2018 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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Du30 terminally ill? Doesn’t seem like it

SEEING the morbid question “Is Duterte dying?” asked in social media early this month as a weary President Duterte sailed through stormy political weather, I posted on Twitter: “Yes, Duterte is dying – like everybody else. As soon as a person is born, he starts to die.”

Such a somewhat philosophical response, I thought, might divert the crowd that had started to arrive too early for Duterte’s wake, but I was mistaken. The fiery rhetoric above the quiet mobilization continued.

It did not help any that Tatay Digong was not seen for days when his public presence in events was needed. When he finally showed up, his face was unusually ashen, his movements rather slow, and he could not seem to keep track of all what he had said.

The head “Is Duterte dying?” topped an Aug. 21 article in Asia Times that noted: “Philippine leader has fueled speculation about his ill-health by falling from public view and suggesting he may resign less than half-way into his term.”

But the President is not likely to step down readily, considering that his chosen successor ex-senator Bongbong Marcos still has a long way to go in his electoral protest against Vice President Leni Robredo. Duterte is quite afraid to dismount the tiger with Robredo holding the leash.

The populist projection of Duterte has robbed the opposition of good leadership materials from which could spring a spirited rallying figure to lead it and the masses seeking liberation from the difficult times.

It would be a mistake for the opposition to rely on the bungling and ineptness of the administration to bring about its own downfall as I hinted at on Twitter in the angry days of August:

“Sa mga naiinip na: Sabi ng isang matanda sa amin, ang bahay na lubos nang inanay o binukbok, sa kinalaunan kusa na lang bagbagsak kahit di na yugyugin.” (Roughly: A termite-ridden house would collapse on its own soon enough without it having to be shaken hard.)

But the opposition and its camp followers must have smelled blood, becoming more visible and vociferous, as they stepped up their anti-Duterte-tirades in the days leading to the anniversary of the declaration of Marcosian martial rule on Sept. 21, 1972.

What happened last Friday, that red-letter day of September?

The morning after, the military said there was a destabilization buildup for Sept. 21 – the same plot that the President had claimed was told him by a foreign power — and that anti-Duterte forces conspired with the communists to topple him.

The military claimed that their exposing the communist hand turned off the other conspirators, including members of the Liberal Party, Magdalo Party and the Church – which angle these groups linked to the alleged plot denied.

The story has many loose ends, but promises a next chapter. Seriously, the military says that the destabilization continues with, this time, the target date having been moved to next month. They even have a name for it: Red October.

Instead of distracting the people with tales of conspiracy, we think the administration should first address the gut issues of rising prices, stagnant wages, unmitigated killings, runaway crime and bureaucratic corruption.

We are already drowning in calamities, crime, and inanities reported by media. The same menu, btw, is being served via TV to Filipinos abroad, giving them the impression that the folks back home are reeling in laugher or slaughter.

 Peek into Duterte’s endoscopy, colonoscopy

BACK to the question “Is Duterte dying?” Nobody, even the 73-year-old patient, knows. And his doctors are tight-lipped.

Talking to a group of gastroenterologists in Cebu City over the weekend, however, Duterte allowed a rare peek into his physical condition, otherwise a closely guarded state secret.

He disclosed that he had endoscopy and colonoscopy performed a week ago by his gastroenterologist, Dr. Joey Sollano of the University of Santo Tomas. The examinations apparently did not find any suspicious growth in his esophagus and intestines.

Duterte said the procedures had to do with Barrett’s disease that he contracted in his younger days because of smoking and heavy drinking.

Barrett’s disease is a complication of gastroesophageal reflux disease. It can be caused by the acid reflux from the stomach, resulting in the esophagus’ lining to develop tissues similar to those of the intestines. Some patients complain of heartburn and difficulty in swallowing.

Duterte said: “I had my colonoscopy and endoscopy about a week ago. Joey did the procedure and he said that… Well, I have a bad case of Barrett. He said, if you’ll just stop drinking, you will live.”

In endoscopy, a flexible instrument (endoscope) tipped with a light and a camera is inserted into the esophagus to enable the doctor to examine the inside lining of the passageway from the mouth down to the stomach.

Colonoscopy is a similar procedure where a colonoscope, a long, flexible tube with a video camera at the tip, is inserted into a patient’s rectum for examining the interior of the large intestine. The linings of the organ can be viewed on a color monitor.

Sometimes, the probe is pushed deeper into the upper regions of the digestive tract to cover more area. It was not explained to what extent the probe went in the case of Duterte.

Both procedures are useful in detecting any incipient growth of cancerous cells. Colonoscopy is recommended for persons who are 40 years old and above. If nothing suspicious is noted, a follow-up examination is usually made after 8-10 years unless some symptoms appear and suggest earlier action.

Duterte also revealed that a neurologist, a Dr. Mercado, now retired, had treated him for a spinal problem that resulted from a motorcycle accident in his younger days.

Duterte related his Barrett’s disease to recurring constipation, which he said he “inherited” from his late mother. He added that Sebastian, one of his sons with his former wife Elizabeth Zimmerman, also suffers from constipation sometimes marked by bleeding.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 25, 2018)

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