Duterte: I don't have cancer

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Concern over Duterte's health grew when he himself alluded to possibly having cancer in an October 4 speech. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 9) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday confirmed his medical tests turned out "negative" for cancer. 

Asked if he underwent biopsy, Duterte said yes. "Hindi pa ako cancerous (I am not cancerous)," he told reporters in an interview in Malacañang.

During biopsy, a tissue or cell sample taken from a patient is analyzed for signs of cancer or other diseases.

Duterte said what he has is a bad case of Barrett's esophagus, a condition where acid from the stomach damages the esophagus lining, resulting in complications that could turn into cancer.

"It's badly eroded because I was told to stop drinking years ago but bumalik kasi ako (but I went back to drinking)," he said.

"I don't know. For one reason or another, I just like to drink. Brandy boy ako, e. Before I sleep, even when I'm alone, nagti-three shots ako," he added. 

Concerns over the 73-year-old Duterte's health grew when he himself alluded to possibly having cancer in an October 4 speech.

"I don't know where I'm now physically, but I have to wait for that... But I will tell you if it's cancer, it's cancer. And if it's third stage, no more treatment. I will not prolong my agony in this office or anywhere," he said at the time.

Critics have been calling for transparency regarding the President's health - possibly through disclosing medical records or a regular medical bulletin - after Duterte admitted having several medical conditions. In his previous speeches,  the President said he also suffered from migraines, nausea, pain due to a spinal injury, and Buerger's disease or a disorder affecting blood vessels.

The Constitution states, "In case of serious illness of the President, the public shall be informed of the state of his health."

Duterte to officials: Don't worry

Earlier on Tuesday, some government officials said the President volunteered information on his health in the middle of the Cabinet meeting Monday night.

"Sinabi niya na, 'by the way I had my test and sabi niya the test is negative' (He said 'by the way I had my test and he said the test is negative')," Department of Interior and Local Government officer-in-charge Eduardo Año.

Cabinet officials congratulated the President, who even managed to crack a joke.

"And then nag-joke pa nga siya. Sabi niya 'alam niyo itong health natin parang baterya yan eh -- minsan negative tsaka positive'," Año added.

[Translation: "He even joked.  He said 'you know our health is like a battery, sometimes it's negative and positive.'"]

Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said the President told Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez that there was no need for the Palace to release a medical bulletin about his health because nothing serious was found in his medical tests.

 

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Sal Panelo, meanwhile, said the President told his Cabinet members not to worry. "I'm okay, I'm well," he recalled the President saying.

Special Assistant to the President Christopher "Bong" Go, in a text message to reporters even said the President "will finish his term and live beyond 2022."

Senate Majority Leader Migz Zubiri, one of eight senators who met with Duterte Monday night, said there was a polyp found in Duterte's body. He said this information was from Go, since the senators themselves did not ask Duterte about his health during the meeting. Zubiri described the President to be "as strong as an ox."

Roque: Nothing serious in Duterte's tests

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque earlier refused to give his own categorical statement on the President's health, saying Duterte "wanted his medical information to remain confidential and private."

But he confirmed nothing serious was found in Duterte's tests to oblige Malacañang to inform the public about it.

"We take it that whatever the President has is not serious for the constitutional provision to apply so we leave it at that," he said in a Palace press briefing.

Roque left it up to other government officials to explain why they disclosed details of Duterte's medical tests. Panelo, however, told CNN Philippines Duterte did not ask Cabinet officials to refrain from disclosing health updates discussed in their meeting.

The Presidential Spokesman earlier said he was considering resigning from his post after being kept "in the dark" on Duterte's whereabouts, including the hospital visit on October 3 for some tests.

CNN Philippines' AC Nicholls contributed to this report.