President Rodrigo Duterte again disappeared from the public eye for almost two weeks, further raising speculation that he is seriously ill.
Duterte originally moved his weekly press briefing from Monday, last week, to Wednesday.
However, Wednesday came and went and the president failed to hold his rescheduled briefing. Worst of all, Malacañang gave no explanation for the President’s no show.
Sen. Bong Go, who still serves as some kind of special assistant to Duterte, tried to explain away the President’s absence by releasing to media a photo of himself with the President, supposedly taken at the Guest House in the Palace grounds.
Eagle-eyed observers, however, noted inconsistencies in the picture, with the President’s lower half partially disappearing and the curtain behind him in its place. They said this was proof that the President was photoshopped into the picture.
Go then released two more photos, one showing the President riding a motorbike in the Palace grounds, and another showing him playing a round of golf.
The motorbike photo was also questioned, as the President was shown with a different haircut from the picture taken two days before.
Pundits also asked why the picture was taken at night, making it harder to identify the President who was wearing a mask.
The golf photo also drew comments as Duterte is not known to be a golfer. He is also shown using a driver when the hole is only a few feet away from him. Also, his supposed golf bag obstructs his line of vision.
Malacañang insisted that Duterte was in good shape “for a man his age.” The President recently celebrated his 76thbirthday.
It was not the first time that the President disappeared from the public. On several occasions last year, he would be absent anywhere from a few days to more than a week. In all cases, Malacañang said he was “busy at work.”
Rumors also swirled that the majority of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) tested positive for COVID-19 in recent weeks. This, despite the PSG having been vaccinated against coronavirus as early as late last year.
Malacañang admitted that the vaccines received by the PSG had been illegally smuggled.
Meanwhile, the President’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio flew to Singapore last week for what she referred to as “personal health management.”
She also said that she was officially on leave and had received permission from the Local Government department for her trip.
Ms. Duterte’s leave of absence was scheduled for April 6 to 10.
As per the country’s health protocols, she will have to be quarantined for 14 days after her return.
Ms. Duterte, who does not use her married surname of Carpio, flew by private jet to Singapore, following reports that her father, the President, had suffered a stroke and was taken to the nearby state for treatment.
Although the President reappeared briefly on Sunday, it was in a taped segment, as has been the case since the middle of last year. Prior to that, he was last seen on March 29, when he attended airport ceremonies to receive one million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from China.
He has not had live interviews with local or foreign media since last year.
Duterte publicly admitted to taking the painkiller fentanyl on a regular basis on doctor’s orders. He has had several motorcycle accidents in the past, which forced him to take painkillers on a regular basis.
He also admitted at one time that he also took marijuana, which remains illegal in the Philippines. He said it helped him sleep.