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Duterte says cancer tests negative

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Agence France-Presse

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Tuesday that recent cancer tests came back negative, just days after sparking speculation when he revealed doctors were checking him for the disease.

Duterte, 73, has regularly prompted theorising about his health by skipping events or discussing his ailments in public since taking power in 2016.

“It’s negative. They (doctors) had a suspicion so they had this specimen taken out from both the oesophageal tube and here,” he said, pointing to his butt.

“They just wanted a retake. Nothing serious actually,” he told reporters.

The most recent speculation started after he said in a speech late Thursday that he was undergoing tests on his doctor’s orders, adding “if it’s cancer, it’s cancer.”

Duterte is the oldest person ever to be elected president of the country and questions about his health began to swirl in Philippine media after he missed an October 3 cabinet meeting and another public event.

The government initially denied the leader was undergoing any testing, with spokesman Harry Roque saying the president “just took his day off.”

But in a Thursday speech Duterte said he underwent an endoscopy and colonoscopy about three weeks ago but that he was advised last week to do additional tests.

Opposition politicians demanded public disclosure, citing a provision in the constitution that says “in case of serious illness of the president, the public shall be informed of the state of his health.”

Duterte has said previously that he suffers from daily migraines and ailments including Buerger’s disease, an illness that affects the veins and the arteries of the limbs, and is usually due to smoking.

The president, known for his deadly crackdown on drugs, also revealed in 2016 that he used to take fentanyl, a powerful painkiller, because of a spinal injury from previous motorcycle accidents.