My heart goes out to President Rodrigo Duterte for having to cut short his two-day Tokyo visit for the enthronement of Japanese Emperor Naruhito on Oct. 22, reportedly due to “unbearable pain” around his pelvic bone. No President is immune to pain. But because the designated eyewitnesses could not agree on what happened to the President on Oct. 16, and a controversial internet post had suggested the “back pain” was caused by the President getting a less than premiere seat at the enthronement, I will refrain from repeating the claim that his pain was the result of an alleged fall from a motorbike inside Malacañang compound.
DU30 was last shown walking with the help of a cane at the Japanese imperial precincts. There was no attempt on the part of his Japanese hosts or the Philippine ambassador there to take him to a doctor or clinic for a quick medical checkup. A social media post by one Ding Velasco accused him of “faking” his back pain, after he got a less than satisfactory seat at the enthronement. Were he in such excruciating pain, Velasco said, he could not have flown back to Manila, and gone to the late Sen. Nene Pimentel’s wake at Heritage Park in Taguig, immediately upon his arrival. Philippine and Japanese sources collaborated to debunk this “fake news.”
The injury appears to be solely self-inflicted. It appears that sometime in August, DU30 sent word he could not attend the enthronement, and then at the last minute, he decided to attend. This may have upset the earlier seating arrangement as well as his welcome reception at the airport. DU30 was received by a former Japanese ambassador to the Philippines rather than by a high-ranking minister of state.
Asst. Secretary Ed Menez, the Foreign Office spokesman, strongly denied the netizen’s post, but not a word was heard from Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin himself. Locsin has not been seen nor heard from since DU30’s eventful Russian visit, before the Japanese trip. Where is Teddy Boy Locsin? What happened to him? This story could be bigger than any of the current diplomatic stories, except that no single newspaper has bothered to work on it. This is how the free press has kept itself posted.
For now, the “back pain” remains the major news story. All previous dispatches, quoting presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo and ex-factotum Sen. Bong Go, said DU30’s pain was “caused by” the alleged motorbike accident on Thursday, Oct. 17. Actually the alleged accident was first reported on Wednesday, Oct. 16. After a few days the Tokyo-datelined stories became less categorical and began to say, the pain was “believed to be” caused by the alleged motorbike accident.
At first, Panelo’s and Bong Go’s story was flatly contradicted by PSG commander Brig. Gen. Jose Niembra, who said DU30 rode a three-wheeled vehicle—a trike—-rather than a regular bike. One of its wheels reportedly hit a rock while he was slowly exiting the garage. This allegedly ended DU30’s ride, but he did not fall. Apparently, in order not to put Panelo and Bong Go on the defensive, the PSG story was amended to say DU30 switched to a big bike, and from there he fell off.
So two motorcycles were allegedly involved. Has the press seen any of these two bikes? It is a legitimate question to ask, and one cannot help but ask. The complicit press may be completely non-skeptical, but nobody else is. Many doubt the alleged motorbike accident ever took place. “Bong” Go, who is apparently back as full time-special presidential assistant, has not bothered to supply the newspapers with photos.
“Bong” Go tells us that DU30 has undergone an “MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan” at an unnamed Manila hospital, and the neurosurgeons there, also unnamed, reportedly diagnosed the President to be suffering from “muscle spasm” and advised him to rest. For a story like this to be credible and authoritative, the name of the hospital or clinic and the attending doctors should be made known. Utmost transparency, not secrecy, is the rule. The public is entitled to a full report. It deserves to know whether there was, in fact, a motorbike accident, and whether the so-called “muscle spasms” were related to such an accident, or caused by something else.
Why is Bong Go, rather than a competent medical doctor, doing all the talking? Even the photos of the Chief Justice taking his oath before the President in Malacañang are credited to this factotum. What happened to the Malacañang Press Office, or Martin Andanar’s humongous outfit? That, of course, is a separate question.
Some Palace sources recall that sometime ago DU30 had an unreported dizziness spell while in a huddle with then-Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr., Undersecretary Dale Cabrera, and a technical assistant who no longer remembers anything. He was reportedly prevented from losing his balance by the quick action of Cabrera who caught his backside. Did not something similar happen to him on Oct. 16? This is what some Palace insiders would like to find out .
The news from Tokyo apparently so alarmed DU30’s family members in Davao that they all flew to Manila to await his arrival. Thanks to Bong Go’s medical bulletin, they can now all go home reassured. Upon her father’s instruction, presidential daughter Davao City Mayor Sara DU30-Carpio remained in Tokyo to represent him at the official functions related to the enthronement. It’s an opportunity for her to wrestle with imperial protocol, which is not a piece of cake.
Although Sara is a city official and a presidential daughter, she is not a national official in the line of presidential succession. Above all she was a woman in society where men stand higher than women. I learned this the hard way when in one Japanese imperial dinner I attended as a Cabinet minister, I tried to make space for the Japanese lady next to me and I instantly got frowns and stares around the table. From all indications, Sara survived the test.