Duterte told Cabinet he doesn’t have cancer, officials say

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte told his Cabinet that medical tests show he doesn’t have cancer, though he won’t release a detailed public report on his health, officials said Tuesday.

Interior official Eduardo Ano told reporters that Duterte announced his test results in a meeting Monday night, eliciting applause from Cabinet officials. Duterte later said, without elaborating, that the tests showed he’s well.

He told a news conference that the results were negative, saying doctors made the assessment after examining tissue samples taken from him.

“We can drink now, really. I’ll give you a run for your money,” he told a journalist in jest. He denied speculation he flew to Hong Kong over the weekend to seek treatment, saying he went there with his family to buy larger clothes because he had gained weight.

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The 73-year-old leader had said in a speech last week that he might have cancer and was awaiting test results, adding to growing uncertainty about his health.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte would abide by the country’s constitution, which requires presidents to publicly disclose any serious illness, but he added that since “it is not serious, he will treat his medical condition as confidential.”

Duterte said he underwent an endoscopy and colonoscopy about three weeks ago but his doctor was advised this week to repeat the tests. Both tests aim to diagnose any abnormality in the digestive tract and colon.

Duterte failed to hold a scheduled Cabinet meeting and skipped another ceremony last Wednesday, leading to speculation that he had been hospitalized. His spokesman denied that.

Rumors have swirled since last year that Duterte might have a serious illness. Duterte and his aides, however, have given assurances that he’s generally fit, although he had said in recent months that he had grown tired of politics, including deeply entrenched government corruption and a national drug problem.

Duterte took office in June 2016 for a six-year term. He is known for his deadly crackdown on illegal drugs, which has drawn international condemnation.

He has said in the past that he has other ailments, including recurring migraines, as a result of a motorcycle accident and drinking. He has acknowledged having Barrett’s esophagus, a condition thought to be caused by stomach acid washing up into the esophagus.

The country’s constitution provides that the vice president, currently opposition leader Leni Robredo, would take over if the president cannot lead the country due to health problems or other reasons.

Duterte has questioned the competence of Robredo, a respected human rights lawyer, to lead the country and has suggested he preferred a military junta to take over in case he is removed from office. Top defense and military officials, however, have said they would follow the political succession specified by the constitution.

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