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Spokesman Says Duterte Should Disclose Health Status

FILE - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte listens during a command conference on Typhoon Mangkhut, locally named Typhoon Ompong, at the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council operations center in metropolitan Manila, Philippines, Sept. 13, 2018.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte should consider publicly disclosing the state of his health to stop speculation after revealing he underwent medical tests that may show if he has cancer, his spokesman said Friday.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque told a news conference that the president can't be compelled to disclose his health condition under the constitution unless he has a serious illness, but that he plans to ask Duterte to issue a statement on his health to end the uncertainty.

"I will tell, perhaps, we need to issue a medical bulletin, whether or not it's serious. Perhaps we would need to bring in your physician because it's the only way to stop all talk about your health," Roque said.

Duterte said in a speech Thursday that he underwent an endoscopy and colonoscopy about three weeks ago but his doctor was advised this week to repeat the tests with tissue samples, which may show whether he has cancer. The tests aim to diagnose any abnormality in the digestive tract and colon.

"I don't know where I'm now physically but I have to wait for that. But I would tell you if it's cancer, it's cancer," the 73-year-old Duterte told a military gathering. Duterte added that "if it's third stage, no more treatment. I will not prolong the agony in this office or anywhere."

Asked to disclose more details about Duterte's condition, Roque said he did not know much but that the president had disclosed in a meeting Thursday with top police and military officials that doctors needed to do another test "because they wanted just to be sure that there was a growth and that they wanted to know more about the growth."

Rumors have swirled for some time that the Duterte, known for his deadly crackdown on illegal drugs, might have a serious illness. Duterte and his aides, however, have repeatedly said he was generally fit although he had grown tired of politics after serving about 40 years in different government posts.

Although the president has acknowledged having certain illnesses, he has never issued a formal statement on his health since taking office in June 2016. He has said he has Barrett's esophagus, a condition thought to be caused by stomach acid washing up into the esophagus, as well as migraines and other ailments caused by drinking and a motorcycle accident years ago.

Some people have speculated that recent dark patches on his face and forehead may be a sign of a kidney problem, but Duterte explained that provincial trips gave him a sunburn.

After the president skipped meetings Wednesday, Roque and another presidential aide, Christopher Go, told reporters he was tired after a trip and opted to have some personal time.

Roque, however, said he was unaware that the president had undergone medical tests and added that he was considering resigning for not having been informed of crucial details about the president.

"I was taken aback about the diagnostic examination. I did not lie to anyone because I simply did not know," Roque told a news conference Friday, adding that he would announce early next week whether he will quit.