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Officials: Duterte Told Cabinet He Doesn't Have Cancer

FILE - Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte gestures while addressing police force to mark the 117th Philippine National Police Service anniversary at Camp Crame in Quezon city northeast of Manila, Aug. 8, 2018.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has told his Cabinet that medical tests show he doesn't have cancer, though he won't be releasing 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. Two other Cabinet officials made a similar statement.

The announcement came amid growing uncertainty about the 73-year-old leader's health after he said in a speech last week that he may have cancer and was awaiting test results.

Ano said that midway through the Cabinet meeting the president said his tests were negative.

"We applauded and told him, 'Congratulations Mr. President,'" Ano said.

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.'' "He wants his medical information to remain confidential and private,'' Roque told a news conference.

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, including harmless or cancerous growths.

Duterte failed to hold a scheduled Cabinet meeting and skipped another ceremony last Wednesday leading to speculation that he had been hospitalized. His spokesman had 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 the 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 such as 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 the helm of power if the president could not 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 clearly provided by the constitution in such a situation.