Motorbike spill caused spinal pain
MANILA, Philippines — “Unbearable pain” in his spine near the pelvic bone – believed caused by a recent motorcycle accident – forced President Duterte to cut short his visit to Tokyo for the enthronement of Emperor Naruhito at the Imperial Palace yesterday.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo, who was part of Duterte’s delegation to Japan, said the 74-year-old Chief Executive had to use a cane to walk, as what used to be mere discomfort became an “unbearable pain” requiring immediate attention from a neurologist.
“The Palace announces that the President will cut short his trip to Japan due to unbearable pain in his spinal column near the pelvic bone as a consequence of his fall during his motorcycle ride last Thursday, Oct. 17,” Panelo said in a statement from Tokyo.
The President was scheduled to arrive last night and visit the wake of the late senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. at the Heritage Park in Taguig City.
Close aide Sen. Christopher Go, who joined the Tokyo trip, said the President was OK but in pain.
Duterte was slightly injured after he reportedly fell off his 650-cc Kawasaki Vulcan bike within the Malago compound at the Presidential Security Group headquarters in Manila. He suffered bruises on his left arm and knee.
Duterte skipped the banquets hosted by the Emperor last night and by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe today. The President has requested his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, to represent him at the banquets and other functions.
“The Palace, however, confirms that the President has attended the enthronement rites earlier today (Tuesday), albeit carrying a cane to assist him in his walk,” Panelo said.
World leaders and royals including Britain’s Prince Charles, South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon and Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam attended the enthronement ceremonies.
“While this was unforeseeable, the public can rest assured that there is nothing to worry as regards the physical health and condition of the President as he gives serious priority thereto in actively serving our country,” Panelo added.
“We wish for the President to get back to full health after the apparent complications he suffered from his accident last week,” Sen. Sonny Angara said in a statement after news of Duterte cutting short his trip came out.
“It was unfortunate that he had to cut short his visit to Japan but it was the right decision because his health should always be prioritized,” Angara said.
It was the third time this month that the government has tried to allay concerns about Duterte’s health after the former mayor told the Filipino community in Moscow that the frequent drooping of one eyelid was due to a chronic neuromuscular disorder.
Duterte’s known problems include back pain, migraines from nerve damage after a previous motorcycle accident and Barrett’s esophagus, affecting his throat.
His circulation is impacted by Buerger’s disease, from heavy smoking when he was younger. He said last year he had tested negative for cancer.
When missing for longer stretches and amid rumors about deteriorating health, Go would post on social media what appear to be proof-of-life images of Duterte relaxing at home, often with the day’s newspaper in the photo.
His administration attributes his disappearances to fatigue from a punishing daily schedule that typically involves several public events and two or three speeches.
His health is also watched closely because of the political uncertainty that would surround his succession should he be unable to continue.
Duterte’s constitutional replacement would be Vice President Leni Robredo, a political opponent who was elected separately and was not his runningmate.
Official photographs released by Malacañang showed the President with his head leaning on the handle of his walking stick while sitting on a sofa. Duterte also used a cane on his way to the ceremony.
In another photo, he was shown with his daughter Mayor Sara and his security aides, toying with the cane, aiming it at the photographer.
“He will return to the country early evening today, Oct. 22, and will see his neurologist tomorrow, Oct. 23, for consultation,” Panelo said.
In a statement released by the Office of the President, Duterte underscored the strong alliance between the Philippines and Japan as he extended the Filipinos’ warm wishes to the people of Japan.
“The Philippine government and the Filipino nation join the people of Japan in the auspicious Ceremonies of the Accession to the Throne of His Majesty Emperor Naruhito,” he said.
Duterte said the Filipino people “are honored and privileged to witness the Enthronement of His Majesty the Emperor.”
“We felt the ardent joy of the Japanese people and their abiding love for His Majesty during this joyous celebration,” he said.
“The Philippine government is confident that this historic occasion will bring new momentum in the further strengthening of an already excellent Philippines-Japan relationship built on a legacy of friendship that succeeding generations will continue to treasure and cultivate,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Panelo said Duterte arrived in Tokyo past midnight yesterday to join other world leaders on the ceremonies of the Accession to the Throne of His Majesty Emperor Naruhito.
The President and his delegation arrived at 12:54 a.m. and were welcomed at the airport by former ambassador Kazuhide Ishikawa and Ambassador Jose Laurel V, among other senior government officials. Newly appointed special envoy to Japan for trade and market access Feliciano Belmonte Jr. was also part of the delegation.
— Paolo Romero
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‘Unbearable’ pain sends Duterte home