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Philippines’ Duterte return to duty eases health concerns

(FILES) This file photo taken on June 01, 2017 shows Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gesturing as he gives a speech during the mass oath taking of officials of various national leagues at the Malacanang Palace in Manila on June 1, 2017. A “tired” Duterte has taken a break from public duties to rejuvenate, his spokesman said on June 15, 2017, as Islamist gunmen rampaged through a southern city in the biggest crisis of his year-old rule. Duterte, 72, failed to show up for the annual on June 12 Independence Day rites in Manila and has not been seen in public since June 11, sparking speculation about the state of his health. ┬áNOEL CELIS / AFP

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte returned to public duties Saturday after nearly a week of absence that sparked speculation over his health as government forces battled Islamist militants in the biggest crisis of his rule.

Duterte, 72, attended a ceremony commemorating the founding of a province and later met with troops in Butuan city, both in the southern region of Mindanao.

Responding to questions from reporters, a jovial Duterte said: “My state of health is — what you see is what you get,” he said, adding that his last medical examination was last year.

Asked if he had any surgery or blood transfusion during his absence, he joked that he had had a “circumcision”.

“What’s your problem? There’s a vice president,” he added.

Duterte had not been seen in public since Sunday as security forces tried to drive Islamist militants from Marawi city in Mindanao.

His spokesman, Ernesto Abella, said Thursday that Duterte withdrew from public duties to “rejuvenate” after a punishing schedule, which included regular provincial sorties.

Duterte was last seen on June 11 in the southern city of Cagayan de Oro, visiting soldiers wounded in the fighting with Islamic State group-styled gunmen in Marawi.

He missed a scheduled appearance the following day at annual Independence Day celebrations in Manila.

Duterte imposed martial law over Marawi and the rest of Mindanao, home to 20 million people, on the day the fighting erupted on May 23 to head off what he said was an attempt by IS to carve out its own territory there.

Duterte had repeatedly denied during last year’s presidential election campaign that he suffered from cancer.


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Rodrigo Duterte


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