THE VERY photographs and videos released by Malacañang sometimes show President Duterte fatigued, to say the least, and not looking at all in “the pink of health” as his spokesman claims.
Nothing’s essentially wrong with that — everybody gets sick – more so if one were a 74-year-old man carrying the burden of heading a corruption-wracked bureaucracy and whipping into line a restless herd of more than 100 million.
Duterte’s latest complaint, betrayed by his drooping left eyelid, is myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune neuromuscular disease that causes weakness in the skeletal muscles. Symptoms include blurred vision, difficulty in swallowing, impaired speech and shortness of breath.
His other illnesses are lower back pain, migraines due to nerve damage blamed on a motorcycle accident, Barrett’s esophagus affecting his throat, and Buerger’s disease caused by his heavy smoking in younger days, which can block blood vessels.
His pictures show him with an unusually dark face and puncture signs in his arms hinting at recent blood extractions or intravenous transfusion. He is observed to have an unsteady gait and a sullen expression.
None of these signs may be immediately life-threatening, but they raise concerns that the President could be under severe stress and needs rest while his health problems are being addressed.
Section 12 of Article VII says: “In case of serious illness of the President, the public shall be informed of the state of his health.”
This was inserted into the Constitution to preclude a repetition of the experience under the late President Ferdinand Marcos, who was suffering from a number of serious diseases, but propped up to rule from his hospital bed in the Palace.
The key word is “serious” which is the only degree of the illness that requires that the public be informed. Duterte may look sick, but as long as he or his coterie say he is not “seriously” ill, a medical bulletin is not deemed needed.
The point here is that the President is no Superman. He need not be seriously ill to merit a longer period of rest and recuperation, maybe even a procedure, if such be the case. His continued well-being contributes to good governance.
He can even go on sick leave and manage the Office of the President through the Executive Secretary without fear of anybody grabbing his uneasy chair.
• US prof’s love letter to Filipinos
SHARE this letter (edited to fit space) of Dr. David H. Harwell, a former professor and assistant dean in the United States who now works abroad designing language training programs:
I am writing to thank Filipinos for the way you have treated me here, and to pass on a lesson I learned from observing the differences between your culture and mine over the years. I am an expatriate worker. My work involves traveling and changing locations, and I do it without family. I have lived in 21 countries. It was fun at first. Now, I am getting tired. The Philippines remains my favorite country, though, and I’d like to tell you why.
I have lived for short periods here, and have family and friends here. My own family of origin in the US is like that of many Americans — not much of a family. Americans do not stay very close to their families, geographically or emotionally, and that is a major mistake. I have long been looking for a home and a family, and the Philippines is the only place I have lived where people honestly seem to understand how important their families are.
In the countries where I’ve lived and worked, all over the Middle East and Asia, Filipinos do all the work and make everything happen. When working in a new company abroad, I seek out the Filipino staff when I need help getting something done, and done right. Your international reputation as employees is that you work hard, don’t complain, and are very capable. If all the Filipinos were to go home from the Middle East, the world would stop. Oil is the lifeblood of the world, but without Filipinos, the oil will not come from the ground, it will not be loaded onto the ships, and the ships will not sail. The offices that make the deals and collect the payments will not even open in the morning. The schools will not have teachers, and, of course, the hospitals will have no staff.
I have seen how your family members overseas do not tell you much about how hard their lives actually are. OFWs are often mistreated. They do all the work but are severely underpaid, because they know that their earnings must be sent home to you. They have their pictures taken in front of nice shops and locations to post on Facebook so you won’t worry about them.
I often pity those who go to America. You see pictures of their houses and cars, but not what it took to get those things. We have nice things, too many things, in America, but we take on an incredible debt to get them, and the debt is lifelong. America’s economy is based on debt. Very rarely is a house, car, nice piece of clothing, electronic appliance, and often even food, paid for. We get them with credit, and this debt will take all of our lifetime to pay.
Most of us allow the American Dream to become the American Trap. Some of you who go there make it back home, but you give up most of your lives before you do. Some of you who go there learn the very bad American habits of wanting too many things in your hands, and the result is that you live only to work, instead of working only to live. The things we own actually own us. That is the great mistake we Americans make in our lives.
I have sometimes tried to explain it like this: In America, our hands are full, but our hearts are empty.
In every country I visit, I see that you are there also, taking care of your families, friends, bosses, and coworkers first, and yourselves last. And you have always taken care of me, in this country and in every other place where I have been.
Please know that at least one of us expats has seen what you do for others and understands that you have a story behind your smiles. Know that at least one of us admires you, respects you, and thanks you for your sacrifices. Salamat po. Ingat lagi. Mahal ko kayong lahat.