Malacañang on Wednesday said President Rodrigo Duterte’s Barrett’s esophagus diagnosis was given a long time ago and the 75-year-old had remained healthy since.

On Tuesday, Duterte bared in his public address that he was advised to stop drinking as his Barrett’s esophagus was  nearing stage one cancer.

Barrett’s esophagus is a condition in which the lining of the esophagus changes, becoming more like the lining of the small intestine rather than the esophagus, according to the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. 

The institution noted that some patients develop a “precancerous change” in the tissue called dysplasia, which makes more likely the development of esophageal cancer.

Palace spokesman Harry Roque, however, said Duterte remained free of any serious illnesses and continued to be a “fit and healthy” person despite his age.

“[P]eople are putting too much meaning on that statement. I think that the advice was given to him a long time ago, when the president was still drinking,” Roque said in an interview over CNN Philippines’ The Source.

“He has since stopped drinking and as far as I know, since he became president, he has not resumed drinking. So, you are talking of a medical advice that happened many years ago, even prior to the presidency,” he added. 

The Constitution requires the president to be transparent to the public on his health status. 

Section 12 of Article VII reads: “In case of serious illness of the president, the public shall be informed of the state of his health. The members of the cabinet in charge of national security and foreign relations and the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, shall not be denied access to the President during such illness.”

Roque said the Duterte government would comply with the constitutional provision.

“The president is a lawyer. He knows what the Constitution provides in case he has a serious illness, he would have to divulge his medical condition to the public.  And I assure everyone that as officers of the court, the President and I, will divulge any serious illness to the public pursuant to the Constitution,” he said.

In July, Roque said Duterte’s health was at “88 percent.”

The spokesman also reported earlier that Duterte was being tested regularly for Covid-19 and that the Presidential Security Group had put in place measures to ensure the president’s safety. John Ezekiel J. Hirro