Trillanes: Duterte in coma just a 'gimmick' to boost Bong Go's publicity

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 21) — Talks about President Rodrigo Duterte supposedly falling into a coma came from the administration and is just a way to boost his aide's publicity, a senator and staunch critic of the President claimed.

Senator Antonio Trillanes on Tuesday said Duterte's camp started spreading the rumors as a "gimmick" to boost Special Assistant to the President Bong Go's publicity.

Go, who recently joined Davao City Mayor Sarah Duterte-Carpio's regional party Hugpong ng Pagbabago, is among the names of possible candidates for 2019 midterm elections.

"Ako naniniwala na si Duterte masamang damo so matagal mamamatay yan (I believe Duterte is bad weeds, so he's hard to die). Kaya sakin (As for me), I'm working on that assumption for all you know itong gimik na coma na ito nanggaling din sa kanila eh (this gimmick about coma also came from them)," Trillanes said.

News about the purported deterioration of the President's health stemmed from a Facebook post by Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Maria "Joma" Sison.

The communist leader on Sunday posted a photo of Duterte in an event organized by his law school fraternity on Saturday with a caption claiming that the President has gone into a      coma.

Sison said those who saw Duterte during the event noticed his darker face and unstable walk and handshake.

"The latest report (still to be verified or negated) is that Duterte has gone into coma since the afternoon or evening of today, Sunday, August 19. The report is still being verified by the press from the palace. People are awaiting the personal appearance of Duterte and medical bulletin from his office," he said.

Malacanang on Monday, however, downplayed the issue and asserted that Duterte is still healthy.

"Contrary to what Joma Sison said, the President is fine and well. He is participating in the Kadayawan festival in Davao. He will have a public appearance tomorrow (Aug. 21) with the League of Cities in Cebu City," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press briefing.

Go also posted a live video showing the country's executive chief having dinner. In the video, Duterte assure that he is alive and left a message to Sison.

"Joma, ang wish ko sa buhay, maski wala ka nang silbi sa mundong ito, mabubuhay ka pa rin ng mga 1,000 years para ikot ng ikot ka na dito sa mundo (I wish in life that although you have no purpose in this world anymore, you will live 1,000 years so you will go around in this world)," he said.

LP leaders react

Leaders from the Liberal Party have given their sentiments on issues about Duterte's health.

Former President Benigno Aquino III sympathized with his successor, attesting that the job can take a toll on his health.

"Habang nagpapaka-pagod ka nang todo todo, hindi ka hihinto habang meron ka pang puedeng gawin. Tapos tao ka rin naman eh kadalasan puro batikos ang mapapala mo. Minsan tao ka, para kaming baterya na medyo over drained," Aquino said.

(Translation: While you are very much exhausted, you won't stop as long as you can still do something. Then, as human, you're usually getting criticisms. Sometimes, we're like a battery that is somehow drained.)

Senator Kiko Pangilinan, meanwhile, said there are other more important issues to discuss than the rumors about the President's health.

"Tama na siguro yun may ibang mas kelangan ipaliwanag yung mga problema sa bansa gaya yung problema sa airport, yung pagpapalusot ng shabu galing BOC (Bureau of Customs). Lahat yan ang dapat pagusapan natin sa ngayon," Pangilinan said.

(Translation: It seems to be enough and there are other problems in our country that need to be explained such as the airport, entry of shabu from the BOC. All of those are the ones we should be discussing now.)

CNN Philippines AC Nicholls and Robert Vergara contributed to this report.