May 25, 2024

When President Rodrigo Duterte presided over the meeting of his Cabinet members sometime last week, he looked frail, rigid, and tired. His photograph that appeared in the newspaper the next day showed that he appears thinner and paler. This initiated a loud speculation from his critics that from the way he looks, he must be sick. They demanded again a report on the condition of his health so that, according to them, the country may be guided properly.
Déjà vu or should I say, here we go again. The state of health of the President is a persistent issue that had become overcooked as it is stale. It is no longer one that stirs our interest or one that requires us to demand for details. Why? Because it has no basis in truth. It is being used as a political weapon to cast aspersions against the manner by which Duterte rules the country. Hence, it is only proper that the President’s men brushed the speculation aside with the justification that their boss is just tired by the pressure of all the problems before him which, to my mind, he has every right to feel.
Filipinos have been used to seeing the President in a spritely, mean, and fighting stance that any appearance of him being sick or weak is an unusual sight. Well, Duterte too is a human being who is worthy of having his bad days. Just because he is the President does not mean that he is immune from illness or stress or anxiety. In fact, with the rate he is going, he is more prone and exposed than any ordinary mortal is.
This is not the first time that the health of the President is being questioned. Several times in the past, there were insinuations that he is suffering from a life-threatening ailment that is severely affecting his ability to lead. All of these were proven false. Every time his health issue is brought forth, he springs in the open and jogs in the limelight, flexing his muscles to show all and sundry that he is far from done. He promised that he will finish his term and I can only pray that he will be true to what he said.
Yes, the President may sometimes look haggard and ailing. Aren’t that how working and dedicated people must look like? Then again, haven’t all past Presidents looked the same?
The Office of the President is a thankless job that finds no compromise in anything that is being discharged. Regardless of the best of intentions, there is always an opposition to what is done and to what is decided. This, by itself, is quite stressful and will surely take a toll even on the strongest and healthiest of individuals. The slightest change in appearance is easily noticed and scrutinized. The flash of the eyes, the receding hairline, the unshaved beard, the beating of the heart, and the breathing of the lungs will always be counted and monitored. This is part of the curse of being a President.
The important thing is not how the President looks like, but how he feels. If he says that he is in the pink of health, he must be telling the truth. As long as we see him in his public appearances, is able to listen to his cursing speeches, and is conscious that he is among us, he must be truly healthy.
If the President looks frail, haggard, and sickly, it is understandable. The conditions of the pandemic where he lives and the political atmosphere where he works justify how he looks. We, too, almost look the same as he. After that long quarantine and an uncertain future ahead of us brought by our lingering fight against the coronavirus, most of us look haggard and anxious. When you lose sleep and unable to enjoy your meal the way you did before the pandemic, it is expected that fatigue would set in. If this is true for us, how much more for the President, who is not only dealing with a contagion but terrorism, rebellion, sedition and other problems, as well?
So, if the President looks sick, tired, and stressed out, that is expected from a working leader. I would rather see my President looking sickly but in control of the situation than one who is healthy but is unconcerned about the plight of his people.
At this time in our history, I prefer having a sick looking President than any other muscle man who is only there to earn pogi points for the next election. In short, I would rather have Duterte, sick and all, stick with the country as President than any of his critics combined. There is no hiding the truth that as between him and them, he has done wonders for the Philippines and has shown an unusual machismo to cope up with the pressures of work.