MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte further cut back on his public appearances in his third year in office, enjoying more private weekends and snubbing official functions.
He showed up at 421 events from July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2019, according to the Presidential Broadcast Staff Radio-Television Malacañang website — down from 753 events in his first year in office and 493 events in his second year.
While he spent more working weekends, he also had more full weekends off—24 in his third year, compared to 14 in his first year and 22 in his second year.
He had no public appearance during all the weekends of August 2018, as in August 2017, and had only one public event during all weekends of July 2018, when he also dropped out of public sight for five consecutive days prior to his State of the Nation Address.
The 74-year-old President did not make a public appearance for six days — from April 29 to May 4 — following a “highly successful” visit to Beijing, his fourth visit to China since 2016.
He was in Davao City, “busy with a lot of paperwork,” his spokesperson Salvador Panelo later told reporters.
He recorded his longest absence so far — seven days — after voting in the May 13 midterm elections. Speculation that he had suffered a heart attack and was in hospital prompted Malacañang to release a picture of him with his aide Bong Go, now a senator, snacking on noodles with a copy of the Inquirer’s May 19 edition on the table.
The President resurfaced on May 21, when he received the credentials of Thailand Ambassador Vasin Ruangprateepsaeng and met with the board of trustees of the Toyota Dealers Association of the Philippines Inc. at the Palace.
In the four days that followed, his only public appearance was at the thanksgiving party for Go at Arcadia Event Center in Davao.
Since 2016, the President’s health has been the subject of speculation because of his disappearances.
In March, he skipped two events in Davao — the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan campaign rally and distribution of land titles to agrarian reform beneficiaries — due to migraine.
Last September, he said he had colonoscopy and endoscopy, and that his doctor told him he had a “bad case of Barrett.”
He previously admitted having Barrett’s esophagus and Buerger’s disease, a condition that leads to constriction of the blood vessels due to accumulation of nicotine.
The President is also known to suffer back problems and migraines due to nerve damage after a motorcycle accident.
Last October, he missed a Cabinet meeting and another event. He later said that he had to undergo repeat medical tests for colon cancer, and that the tests came back negative.
Shortly, he made an unannounced trip to Hong Kong with his partner Honeylet Avanceña and their daughter.
8 foreign trips
The President took eight foreign trips in his third year, eight in his second year and 21 in his first year.
At the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit in Singapore last November, he missed four events and the gala dinner hosted by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Malacañang said it was because he was taking “power naps.”
After skipping several meetings at the Asean summit, the President cut short his participation at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting in Papua New Guinea, missing some of the most important events, including a working lunch with 20 other world leaders.
Cabinet members have advised the President to go on a two-week vacation, according to Panelo, who said on Friday that the President needed a break because he had been working too hard for the country. —With reports from Martha Pangilinan and Andrea Rose D. Gregorio
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